SEATTLE, June 3 (UPI) -- The ridge where six climbers disappeared is Mount Rainier's deadliest ascent, the National Park Service says.
About one quarter of the fatalities on the highest mountain in the continental United States have occurred on Liberty Ridge, although only 2 percent of those who try to climb Rainier use that route. The first ascent by Liberty Ridge was only made in 1935, 65 years after the first climber reached the top of the mountain.
At 14,411 feet, Rainier is the highest mountain in the Cascade range and in Washington State.
A party of four climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents International disappeared on the route last week. The National Park Service said that a helicopter search found some of their gear 3,300 feet below their campsite and they are almost certainly dead.
Park officials said recovering the bodies could take months if they are ever found and if recovery is possible.
Alpine Ascents has identified the guides as Matthew Hegeman, 38, who was leading the climb, and Eitan Green, 28. The company said three of the four climbers were John Mullally of Seattle, Mark Mahaney of St. Paul, Minn., and Uday Marty of Singapore, while his family said Tuesday that the fourth man was Erik Britton Kolb of New York City.
Gavin Woody, who ascended by Liberty Ridge last year with his friend Vik Sahney, said the route has attractions that lure climbers in spite of the danger.
"This is really special," Woody told the Seattle Times. "You pick your way up the ridges in between these massive walls."
Sahney said the part of the route between 12,000 and 13,400 feet was "pretty inhospitable." He said that high winds with one gust of about 80 mph sometimes forced them to their knees.
All those in the Alpine Ascents party appear to have been experienced mountaineers. Kolb's family called the American Express finance manager an "avid outdoorsman" who had visited wild places around the world.
Green, who grew up in the Boston area, had been guiding for Alpine Ascents since 2009, while Hegeman had climbed Rainier more than 50 times.
Mullaly's wife told the Seattle Times he "lived to climb mountains." He was a longtime Microsoft employee, starting as a forklift operator and packer and becoming a programmer.
Marty had worked for Intel, the chip manufacturer, since 1996, most recently as a vice president in southeast Asia.
Mahaney worked in IT.