- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004

SEATTLE (AP) — Five climbing rangers headed up Mount Rainier yesterday, racing to save an injured climber stranded with his companion on a steep slope near the summit.

Two other rescue climbers who started their ascent Saturday were delayed by whiteout conditions, said Lee Taylor, a spokeswoman for Mount Rainier National Park.

Peter Cooley, 39, is showing signs of a severe head injury, Miss Taylor said. He slipped and fell Saturday morning on Liberty Ridge at the 12,300-foot level of the 14,410-foot mountain.

“He’s in and out of consciousness, not coherent, agitated. He’s not in good mental condition,” Miss Taylor said. She said the injury is life-threatening and he needs to reach a hospital as soon as possible.

His climbing partner, Scott Richards, 42, set up a tent and boiled water, Miss Taylor said. The pair, both from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, had enough supplies to get them through the night as they awaited a rescue effort expected to take several days.

“There couldn’t be a worse place on the mountain to try to do a rescue. It’s very extreme terrain,” Miss Taylor said.

The two men are stranded on a 45-degree slope with steep and rocky terrain above and below them, Miss Taylor said. They were in contact intermittently with rescuers by cell phone.

Temperatures were at 16 degrees, with intermittent clouds and snow, she said, but winds were calm. Poor weather has prevented helicopter operations.

The first two rangers were climbing slowly in cloudy conditions after bad weather stopped them early yesterday, Miss Taylor said. They planned to figure out how to bring down the men safely once they assessed the situation, she said.

The five-member team was expected to reach the 8,000-foot level by midafternoon and planned to establish a base camp on the Carbon Glacier below Liberty Ridge, she said.

A helicopter from the Oregon Air National Guard was waiting in Yakima, east of the mountain. The helicopter could be sent in with another team of climbers if the weather improves, she said.

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