MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- Time is running out for the two separate 2-person parties lost on Mount Rainier. Monday, park rangers ramped down the search as a window of good weather came to a close.
For most of last week, the weather was so bad on Mount Rainier that searchers couldn't see their hands in front of their faces. But Monday the weather changed, giving them a critical window to start the search for four missing hikers.
Mark Vucich, 37 of San Diego, CA and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta, GA, planned to winter camp on the Muir Snowfield. They were due out on Sunday, January 15. A second party of two climbers, Sork (Erik) Yang, 52, of Springfield, OR, and Seol Hee Jin, 52, from Korea, on a summit attempt via the Disappointment Cleaver route were due back Monday, January 16.
Rangers said a hiker contacted them and said he may have seen the groups last Friday -- believed to be the last siting of the missing parties. The hiker said both groups were climbing upward before the storm moved in.
When the weather broke Monday, searchers went for it. Conditions were described as nearly perfect for searching from the air and on the ground. But the recent storms erased the trails of the missing hikers under 4-foot blanket of snow and drifts 50-feet deep in places.
Rangers closed the road to Paradise Lodge so that the 40 searchers could move about freely and wouldn't be confused by footprints made by someone other than the missing hikers.