Bend man witnesses Mount Rainier search

Hiked same route on which six had just died

C.O. man at Mt. Rainier on deadly day

BEND, Ore. - When Ryan Carrasco of Bend and his friend got to Mount Rainier, they were greeted by an unwelcome sight.

"Any time you see a helicopter flying over a mountain, it's not a good sign," said Carrasco who is an expert climber.

The team knew something was wrong as they began their ascent to Liberty Ridge Friday morning on the Washington state peak.

"We knew somebody probably fell," Carrasco said.

What they did not know at the time was that they were about to begin the same climb where not one, but six people died just a day before.

"It's one of the most advanced routes on Mount Rainier, I guess you'd say," Corrasco said.

The summit is just over 14,000 feet. The climb begins at about 9,000 feet.

"We climbed up the ridge, mainly on the spine of the ridge," Corrasco said.

Carrasco says the ridge is the safest place to be.

"If anything falls, it'll typically go to either side," he said.

Carrasco said he witnessed many avalanches as he hiked without ropes with his partner. The climbers who died went up with guides.

"Even though sometimes people have a lot of experience, sometimes still," there can be accidents, Corrasco said.

Corrasco said he believes the guided tour roped up together when they finally reached a spot more than halfway up the mountain. Corrasco said that spot was icy and slippery.    
"In the event someone might have fallen, it could have taken them all down," Corrasco said.

He says the helicopter hovered for some time, thousands of feet below the ridge. He thinks they fell into a crevasse.

"Nobody really knows," Corrasco said. "It's just an unfortunate situation."

But the danger is what keeps many coming back for more.

"If it was easy all the time, it wouldn't be as fun," Corrasco said.

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