Mount Rainier hiker dies after falling through snow bridge

The park visitor's body was recovered Wednesday afternoon
Mount Rainier

PARADISE, Wash. — A Mount Rainier National Park visitor’s body was recovered Wednesday after that person fell through a snow bridge the day before, a park ranger said.

“Rangers and Mountain Rescue volunteers today recovered the body of an individual who fell through a snow bridge at Paradise yesterday,” explained Mount Rainier National Park ranger Kevin Bacher in a Wednesday news release.

The park is not releasing the person’s identity until the person’s family is notified.

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Bacher said the visitor’s body was “found at the bottom of a steep drainage under 8-10 feet of snow.”

The person’s hiking companion called 9-1-1 shortly before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, saying someone had fallen through the snow while hiking.

“Rangers responded with a hasty team and swiftwater rescue gear, and were able to tentatively spot an unresponsive person sixty feet downslope through a hole in the snow,” said Bacher.

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Rescuers decided it was too dangerous to conduct a rescue in the dark. On Wednesday morning, Mountain Rescue Association volunteers and National Park Service rangers “began digging a trench at the base of the slope,” according to Bacher. Around midday, “a ranger in a dry suit descended into the trench and recovered the body from the base of a waterfall fed by snowmelt under the snow.”

The National Park Service has a warning for Mount Rainier visitors:

Water flowing underneath melting snow is one of the greatest dangers that hikers face in the Cascades Mountains this time of year. Water can carve and melt large voids, which may be partially or completely invisible from the surface. To avoid this danger:

  • Do not hike alone; companion may be able to call for help
  • Check in with a visitor center for current information about hazards in the area where you will be hiking
  • Stick to well-marked routes over the snow
  • Avoid hiking in drainages where water is likely to be moving under the snow
  • Look for holes or depressions in the snow, and listen for the sound of rushing water
  • When hiking in steep terrain, carry an ice axe or wear traction devices to prevent falls
  • Carry the “10 Essentials,” including extra food, water, clothing, and navigation aids

BEFORE & AFTER: Snow covers Paradise visitor center at Mount Rainier

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