Three Hikers Are Missing on Mount Rainier

Three hikers at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State have gone missing separately in the past 10 days, and search efforts have been hampered by inclement weather, the National Park Service said on Monday.

The hikers — Vincent Dije, 25, who went missing on June 19; Talal Sabbagh, 17, who was reported missing on June 22; and Matthew Bunker, who disappeared on Friday — were each climbing on different parts of the mountain.

Missing hikers are not uncommon at Mount Rainier this time of year, officials said, because many people are surprised by the changing conditions as they climb the mountain.

“It feels like summer, but at high elevation we have lots of snow,” said Terry Wildy, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service at Mount Rainier. “For folks that are hiking, it may not be obvious where trails are or what is underneath the snow.”

On Friday, Mr. Bunker, of Seattle, was climbing Thumb Rock at about 10,400 feet above sea level. As the group skied down from the upper mountain, Mr. Bunker fell in the steep terrain, at Liberty Ridge, according to a statement from the National Park Service. Members of Mr. Bunker’s climbing party reported him missing at 3 p.m. on Friday.

A National Park Service helicopter searched the area, but severe winds curtailed the search. A second search flight returned later Friday with three rangers but they were unsuccessful, the National Park Service said.

On Monday, rangers continued to search for the three men. Future helicopter searches are contingent on better weather, Ms. Wildy said.

Mount Rainier, an active volcano that is more than 14,000 feet above sea level at its peak, was among the national parks that were temporarily off limits during the coronavirus pandemic. Hiking was forbidden from March 24 until June 5. The visitors’ center and other facilities there remain closed.

The terrain where Mr. Bunker went missing has cliffs and is prone to rockfalls and avalanches, including one that killed six climbers in 2014.

Mr. Dije, a student from Indonesia who is living in Seattle, and Mr. Sabbagh, from Seattle, were both last seen in the area of the park known as Paradise. It is on the southern part of the mountain and is where most visitors go to drive up the trail.

Mr. Dije was hiking the Van Trump Trail, at least 5,000 feet above sea level, toward Mildred Point at Longmire, officials said. He was last seen on June 19, and his car was later found at the park.

The National Park Service said it was working closely with the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco and with Mr. Dije’s family members.

Mr. Sabbagh was last seen hiking in Paradise on June 21. His car was also found parked at a lot at Paradise, officials said.

Kate Van Waes, the executive director of the American Hiking Society, said in an interview on Monday that hiking “is generally safe during this pandemic.”

“It is a really good idea to get outside, but we recommend people stay fairly close to home,” she said.

Ms. Van Waes also suggested that hikers try not to go on difficult hikes.

“The medical system is already under a lot of stress,” Ms. Van Waes said. “Stick to front country and fairly easy hikes where you are less likely to get lost.”


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