Climbers stranded for days on Mount Rainier rescued by helicopter

Climbers stranded for days on Mount Rainier rescued by helicopter

Four climbers were rescued from Mount Rainier on June 6 after calling 911 on June 3.

One of the climbers, Yevgeniy Krasnitskiy of Portland, told reporters “Don’t mess with Rainier.”

Krasnitskiy said this when he described the harrowing conditions that the four of them overcame. Their misfortune was brought about by unforeseen winds tearing through their camp on June 2. The wind took away some of their gear, as reported by the Seattle Times.

The four men in their 30s were saved by a helicopter the morning of June 6. They were transported to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. Their injuries included altitude sickness and frostbite. All were released that evening, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg.

According to Mount Rainier National Park officials, stormy weather hampered five attempts at a helicopter rescue that Monday and Tuesday. The weather kept the helicopters down on Wednesday. That was why a park helicopter crew was not able to land on the mountain until that Thursday morning.

The climbers included Krasnitskiy, Vasily Aushev and Kostya “Constantine” Toporov of New York City; and Ruslan Khasbulatov of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Beginning their climb on May 31, the climbers camped low on the hazardous and technical Liberty Ridge route on the first night. But they were worried about rock fall, because a climber had lost his life recently at the routes usual high camp, according to Krasnitskiy.

They made the decision to skip the high camp, with the intention of spending a night near the summit. They began their trek on June 1 at 10 p.m.

The climbers made it through the high camp, at about 10,500 feet. But then one of them got altitude sickness, which impeded their progress.

By the next day, the sick climber was weary, and they were forced to make an unintended camp on steep snow.

Then the unexpected strong wind hit, shaking their camp and ripping and breaking their tent. Krasnitskiy’s pack, sleeping bag, shovel, and some food were lost.

“Everyone was hypothermic,” he said. “It was a cold night.”

The next day, June 3, they watched as the high winds kept a helicopter from reaching them.

In the mornings they drank tea, and they ate small portions of food and collectively drank one bottle of melted snow each day.

On June 4, rocks and snow dropped on their tent. A ball of ice hit one of the climbers while he was sleeping. When he woke up, he asked who had hit him, Krasnitskiy said.

The ice that fell smothered their tent platform and pressed them closer together. It was not possible to descend.

On June 5 they kept climbing.

“It really hit me, there are so many people out there thinking about us and have no idea what’s going on with us. We’re here. We’re alive. It’s miserable, but we’re alive,” Krasnitskiy said. As they continued climbing, he said he just kept yelling, “We have to get there.”

On that night, Krasnitskiy said they slept in a crevasse, which blocked the wind and was surprisingly comfortable.

On June 6, they started to lose hope.

“And then the helicopter arrived,” Krasnitskiy said.

The climbers were spotted about a half-mile from the place they had been found before. They were in a location far less affected by the wind and more accessible for a helicopter. According to CBS News, park officials said the route between the two sites requires expert and technical climbing, and the climbers “contributed greatly” to their own rescue.

Krasnitskiy, who has been a climber for 15 years, said he would climb Mount Rainier again.

“Every time I go up a mountain, it teaches me a lesson,” he said.

Read more about this story here.

To watch a brief interview with Krasnitskiy by KOIN 6, click here.