Searchers: 2 Vancouver, Wash., climbers missing on Mount St. Helens found safe

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2 climbers missing on Mount St. Helens found safe

COUGAR, Wash. — Rescue workers say two climbers missing on southwest Washington’s Mount St. Helens have been found safe.

Ben Peeler of North Country Emergency Medical Service confirms that both men were found Wednesday afternoon. The medical service has been heading up a volunteer rescue team.

Authorities say 32-year-old Mark Lapinskas and 34-year-old Kevin Dean of Vancouver, Wash., were reported overdue Tuesday night.

Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox says a deputy found their car early Wednesday at the Marble Mountain Snow Park about 10 miles northeast of Cougar, Wash.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

COUGAR, Wash. (AP) — Searchers are looking for two Vancouver, Wash., men who failed to return from a climb on Mount St. Helens.

Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox said a deputy found their car early Wednesday at the Marble Mountain Snow Park about 10 miles northeast of Cougar.

The men, Mark Lapinskas, 32, and Kevin Dean, 34, both have packs but probably aren’t prepared for the deluge of rain hitting the area, Cox said.

Lisa Dean reported her husband and brother-in-law overdue Tuesday night.

The Daily News reports that a group of three climbers that included two employees of the Longview newspaper saw the two Vancouver men around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday about 600 feet shy of the summit. Mark Lapinskas reached the summit with them about a half hour later.

Visibility was poor, about 15 paces, with sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph, according to Daily News copy editor Evan Caldwell, a member of the group.

“So we added another layer of clothing and slid down. About 30 vertical feet later, we met with Kevin (Dean) and we all stopped to formulate a plan. He and Mark decided to climb up so Kevin could reach the summit,” Caldwell said.

He and his two climbing partners decided to keep sliding down.

“The three of us didn’t see anyone else during the rest of the descent, and Mark and Kevin’s car was the only one left in the parking lot at Marble Mountain when we left at about 5 p.m.”

Volunteers from the North Country Volcano Rescue Team from Yacolt have started searching trails on the south side of the volcano.

Skamania County has asked the state Department of Emergency Management for help with the search.

The two men may have been caught in the rainstorm and lost the trail, Cox said. The rain also makes it unlikely that aircraft will be able to search Wednesday, he said.

The National Weather Service says an unusually wet Pacific storm system with strong winds is expected to drop 2 to 5 inches of rain at the coast and Cascades. The heavy rain may flood small streams.

About 13,000 people each year climb the 8,365-foot volcano that was left after the 1980 eruption blew 1,300 feet off the top. The U.S. Forest Service said the climbing route provides views of the crater, lava dome and eruption area. Most climbers can complete the round trip in seven to 12 hours.

In February, a climber who had been posing for a picture on the rim of Mount St. Helens fell 1,500 into the crater and died when a snow overhang gave way. The body of Joseph Bohlig, 52, of Kelso, was recovered the next day.

Information from: The Daily News,

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