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June 1, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Families of dead climbers meet with National Park Service and climbing guide service officials

On Sunday morning at Longmire west of Mount Rainier, family members of the six climbers met with National Park Service and Alpine Ascents officials.

“They are devastated and are in a taking care of themselves mode,” said Patti Wold, a National Park Service spokeswoman.

The Park Service said this morning that it was going to release the names of the six climbers, but a spokesperson said early this afternoon the names would not be disclosed for privacy concerns.

The meeting unfolded on a blue-sky day with no clouds obscuring the summit.

Wold said that fair weather does not make for safe conditions in the area on the Carbon Glacier where the climbers’ gear was spotted and their bodies are believed to be located.

That area was scouted Saturday by a helicopter search crew, but no ground searchers entered the area.

Wold said there will be “a continuous ongoing search” in the weeks ahead that would involve scouting the area to see if conditions might permit a recovery. But she said it is uncertain whether the climbers’ remains could ever be retrieved from the area. The biggest danger is the rock and ice that often fall into the area from the ridge above, she said.

“Everybody here in the park is very affected by this,” Wold said. “It is a huge loss … to the climbing community in this area and worldwide, and of course the families and the park itself. So we send our condolences and thoughts and prayers to all those people.”

One of the six climbers missing and presumed dead in the climbing tragedy is a 26-year-old Minnesota man who was attempting his second ascent of the mountain, a relative confirmed Sunday.

Rob Mahaney said his nephew, Mark Mahaney, had two loves in his life: his girlfriend and mountain climbing.

“He’s been a very active person his entire life,” Rob Mahaney said. “He’s always been a climber.”

Mahaney and his girlfriend made their home in St. Paul.

In addition to Rainier, Mark Mahaney summited Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. He returned to Rainier to attempt a more challenging route, up Liberty Ridge, his uncle said.

During a family get-together at Easter, some relatives tried to talk Mark Mahaney out of the climb. “But there was nothing that was going to stop him,” Rob Mahaney said. “He was doing something he loved to do. He is literally now part of the mountain.”

Mahaney’s father and one of his brothers traveled to Mount Rainier this week but were headed home on Sunday, after the park announced there would be no immediate search for bodies, Rob Mahaney said.

Leading the doomed expedition was Matt Hegeman, an experienced mountaineer who phoned Alpine Ascents on Tuesday, the second day of what was planned to be a 5-day climb, according to a company blog posting.

“Matt Hegeman just called with an update from our Liberty Ridge crew on Mt. Rainier,” states the post, which was dated and time-stamped on May 27 at 2:58 p.m. “…The whole crew is doing well and has made it to Thumb Rock at about 10,700′, where they will camp for the night. Now we’re watching the forecast and the guides will decide in the next 24 hours when to go for the summit.”

Hegeman, 38, of Truckee, Calif., had climbed Mount Rainier more than 50 times via four different climbing routes, according to his biography on Alpine Ascents’ website.

Married to an ecologist, he had also guided in Northern California, climbed Mount Shasta more than 35 times and ascended all peaks of 14,000 feet or greater in California.

After news of his death, a few of Hegeman’s friends and clients posted notes of condolence on the guiding company’s Facebook page.

Mario Simoes, a Florida lawyer, wrote that Hageman guided him during a Rainier expedition about a month ago.

“I knew he was an accomplished climber; during the 3 days we spent together, I also learned he was a professional and safety-conscious guide,” Simoes wrote. “In fact, Matt made the tough decision to abort our summit attempt when conditions on the mountain proved unreasonably dangerous that day. RIP, my friend!”

Comments | More in General news | Topics: accident, climbers, families

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