- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

LONGMIRE (AP) — A climber stranded in the freezing cold for days on a steep, rocky slope of snowy Mount Rainier was plucked to safety by a helicopter yesterday, a day after his injured companion was rescued but died on the way to the hospital.

Scott Richards, 42, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, underwent a medical examination and appeared in good condition, said Kevin Bacher, spokesman for Mount Rainier National Park.

“He is flat-out exhausted. He basically hasn’t slept in four days,” Mr. Bacher said.

A break in the clouds allowed a National Guard helicopter to reach Mr. Richards, whose climbing partner, Peter Cooley, slipped and fell 30 feet Saturday on Liberty Ridge, one of the mountain’s most difficult climbing routes.

Mr. Cooley, 39, also of Cape Elizabeth, suffered a severe head injury in the fall, 12,300 feet up the 14,410-foot peak. The climbers were stranded on a 45-degree slope with steep and rocky terrain above and below. Temperatures dipped below zero in whiteout conditions.

Mr. Cooley was picked up by helicopter Monday evening, but died en route to a hospital.

“Unfortunately, with the death of Peter, it kind of sets a little different mood than we’d like to have at this time,” Ranger Michael Larson said. “But fortunately Scott Richards was able to make it down safely, and our climbing team made it down without incident. We feel good about that, at least. We feel very sad for Peter Cooley’s family.”

Mr. Richards called for help on his cell phone Saturday. The rescue effort was repeatedly stymied by bad weather and thick clouds. A helicopter dropped supplies, including a radio, food, water, warm clothing and sleeping bags, to the two climbers Sunday night.

Two climbing rangers finally reached the pair at midday Monday.

They found Mr. Cooley in poor condition — in and out of consciousness, incoherent and combative — with head, leg and shoulder injuries, park rangers said. Mr. Richards had kept his head wound clean and his body warm. Though Mr. Cooley would not drink, Mr. Richards had dripped water into his mouth.

A sudden clearing of the weather allowed the helicopter to pick Mr. Cooley up late Monday.

Mr. Richards and the rangers spent the night on the mountain at 10,760 feet. The three hiked down to 8,800 feet yesterday morning, and were picked up there by the helicopter.

Mr. Cooley’s death was the first on Mount Rainier since September 2002 and the 90th since 1887, when records began being kept.

Mr. Cooley, who was married and had three children, and Mr. Richards were described as experienced climbers who had scaled Rainier previously.

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