Two experienced guides and four climbers in their charge have been missing since Friday, May 30. The trip was with Alpine Ascents International, and the group began its ascent of Washington’s Mount Rainier, the fifth highest mountain in the U.S. on Monday, May 26.
The last anybody heard from them was via satellite phone from 12,800 feet on Wednesday, May 28 at 6 p.m. Their plan was to summit Mount Rainier on Thursday and return Friday. Instead, the group went missing during their climb on the mountain’s challenging Liberty Ridge route.
The names of the six missing from Mount Rainier are climbers Erik Britton Kolb, Mark Mahaney, John Mullally and Uday Marty, and their trip guides, Eitan Green and Matthew Hegeman.
Alpine Ascents runs between 60 and 70 Rainier climbs a year, in addition to others around the world. This tragedy was the second in two months for the climbing company. In April, five of its Sherpa guides were among the 16 killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest.
The Lost Climbers
Guide Eitan Green, 28, had a reputation for meticulous preparation for every climb he embarked on. He had a great sense of humor about his work. “I’ve got the best office in the world, but the roof leaks,” he said. The hope is that the avalanche came while everyone was asleep and now the only comfort for his friends and family is that he died doing something he loved. Alpine Ascents released a statement that said, “His pursuit for excellence was matched by his sense of camaraderie and humor. Eitan, quick with a smile and exuberant, had that infectious nature of guides who love their work and time in the mountains. His talent as a strong leader and critical thinker in the wilderness was unsurpassed.”
Guide Matthew Hegeman, 38, climbed Mount Rainier 50-plus times via four different routes. Alpine Ascents said he was intense, philosophical and “driven by the right way to do things.” The Alpine Ascents Facebook page is filled with warm comments about him and caring thoughts from his family and friends.
John Mullally, 40, is survived by two daughters, 5 and 9, and his loving wife, Holly, who said, “John was an amazing husband, father, friend, mountaineer, and all around human being. John lived to climb mountains, and had his first summit of Mount Rainier in his early 20s. Although my heart is broken, I find peace in the knowledge that he died doing what he loved. John always supported his loved ones in following their dreams, and I absolutely supported him in following his.”
Mark Mahaney, 26, wrote on Facebook “nothing will be easy on this climb.” His uncle Rob Mahaney said Mark “loved the outdoors and the exhilaration of being in the wide open.” Mark was a quality-assurance analyst for a high-tech company and the youngest of five children. His Uncle Rob said he had two great passions in life, his girlfriend and climbing. His longtime friend Josh Barke said he trained hard for the Mount Rainier climb. “He was biking 20 to 30 miles a day,” Barke said. “He put his heart and soul into getting ready for this.” During Easter, a family member told him not to make the trek. “There’s nothing going to stop me,” he said, according to his uncle. Mark’s brother said, “Mark is with the mountain now.”
Uday Marty, 40, was a vice-president and managing director of Intel Corp. in Southeast Asia. He was an experienced climber. Bill Calder, a colleague at Intel said Uday made annual treks including Mount Rainier. “We are most definitely mourning his loss here,” Calder said. “He was a guy with a great attitude, and he always had a big smile.”
Erik Britton Kolb, 34, was an American Express finance manager who lived with his wife in Brooklyn. Kolb is the second Lafayette College grad to die in recent mountain accidents. Skier David Tapsfield was killed in a 2,000-foot fall in the French Alps in February. Lafayette College released a statement that said, “The Lafayette community is deeply saddened by the loss of Erik Kolb ’02 and offers its heartfelt condolences to the Kolb family and all families affected by the tragedy.” Erik’s family said, “Erik was a smart, gentle and generous man whose warmth and kindness touched the lives of all who knew him.”
This was the worst incident on Mount Rainier since 1981, when an avalanche buried 11 climbers and their bodies were never recovered.
Alpine Ascents, International Mountain Guides and Rainier Mountaineering Inc. each had a Liberty Ridge climb planned for June. Although the route is in good shape, all have canceled their planned trips. “We felt it was too soon on the heels of this unfortunate event,” said Peter Whittaker of Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. The decision to cancel the planned trips was out of respect for the climbers, guides and their families.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.