Climber killed on Mt. Rainier identified; two others injured

A climber died on Mt. Rainier and two other climbers were flown to a local hospital after a rockfall.

The three were part of a climbing group of six caught in a rockfall at 10,400 feet Wednesday evening. The remaining three climbers were uninjured.

The climber who died was identified Friday as Arleigh William Dean, 45, of Alaska. The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office made the identification.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday, the park received a 911 call from a climber on the Liberty Ridge route reporting that a rockfall had swept through the site where three parties of two were camping on their way to the summit, public information officer Kevin Bacher said in a statement.

"This morning, park rangers responded in the park’s helicopter, first conducting aerial reconnaissance and then retrieving the most seriously injured climber, transferring him via Airlift Northwest to Harborview Hospital in Seattle," Bacher said Thursday.

An official with Harborview said the man is 37 years old and was listed in serious condition.

"The second injured climber and the deceased individual were flown out at 2:30 p.m. and transferred, respectively, to Arbor Health, Morton Hospital in Morton, Washington, and to the Pierce County medical examiner. The remaining three climbers were flown off the mountain at 4:45 p.m," Bacher said.

Liberty Ridge is known as one of the most difficult climbs on Mount Rainier.

"Only about two percent of the people who climb Mount Rainier every year attempt this route,” said Bacher said.

The climb is full of steep, icy slopes and avalanche-prone terrain. Less than 100 climbers attempt Liberty Ridge each year and only half make it to the top.

"These climbers actually were very well prepared, they were very experienced climbers, they were taking all of the steps necessary to make sure that they would be safe,” Bacher said.

Twenty-four rangers from Mt. Rainier National Park were involved in the rescue and recovery, along with a chaplain from Tacoma Pierce County Chaplaincy.

"You never know what's going to happen. The rocks are so unstable up there and when it gets warm, they just slide,” said hiker Jeff Biddy.

Five years ago to the day, six climbers died on the mountain in the same area. They fell from the mountain's steep liberty ridge in 2014, and that was the deadliest accident on Mt. Rainier since 1981.

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