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Harsh weather hampers Mount Rainier searchers

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK – The search continued for two overdue parties on Mount Rainier on Saturday morning. Search teams in Paradise Glacier, Alta Vista, Upper Stevens Canyon and Muir Snowfield encountered tough conditions in seeking out the missing hikers.

Winds reached 60 miles per hour on the mountain, according to Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold. The high winds, in addition to heavy snow and visibility of less than 10 feet, forced search patterns away from higher elevations.

A U.S. Army Reserve Chinook crew was standing by at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the possibility of favorable flight conditions developing.

Concern has grown as the four were on the mountain during one of the worst snow and ice storms to hit the Pacific Northwest in years.

“Two ground teams battled 40 mph winds and white-out conditions this morning,” Wold said Friday. “The severe conditions forced searchers to withdraw from the field. They remain on standby to return to the search upon the first sign of improved conditions.”

An initial search was launched Thursday for the four.

The National Park Service said there are two teams of overdue parties on the mountain – a party of two who were planning to winter camp on the Muir Snowfield for a weekend was due back last Sunday; a second party of two mountain climbers was due back Monday.

Wold identified the two campers as Mike Vucich, 37, of San Diego and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta. The two climbers were identified as Sork “Erik” Yang, 52, of Springfield, Ore., and Seol Hee Jin of South Korea.