6 missing Mount Rainier climbers believed to have fallen

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(CNN) — Six people who attempted to climb Mount Rainier in Washington state have been involved in some sort of fall, with “no viable chance of survival,” a park official said after a helicopter search team spotted climbing gear on the mountain Saturday.

Tents and equipment believed to belong to the group were located in the area of Carbon Glacier, a debris area with a lot of falling rocks and ice, said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Fawn Bauer.

Rescuers received a signal from the party’s emergency beacons, but will continue their search by air only, because entering the area from the ground is too dangerous for a rescue crew, Bauer said.

The climbing party, which included two experienced guides, last made contact with the park Wednesday afternoon. At that time, Bauer said, the party indicated everything was fine and that they were at 12,800 feet.

The climbers planned to reach the summit on Thursday and descend on Friday.

Friday afternoon, Alpine Ascent, the company affiliated with the guides, notified the park that they were not able to locate the group.

About 10,000 people attempt to scale Mount Rainier each year, but only about half reach the 14,417-foot summit, according to the National Park Service.

By Susanna Capelouto and Janet DiGiacomo

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