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Search for missing Utah climber on Mount Rainier suspended

Mount Rainier is seen in the distance from a viewpoint within Mount Rainier National Park.
Mount Rainier is seen in the distance from a viewpoint within Mount Rainier National Park.
Rachel La Corte, Associated Press

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. (AP) — The search for the missing Utah climber on Mount Rainier was called off Saturday afternoon after a helicopter spotted the body of a deceased male climber near the summit.

Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patricia Wold said the body matches the description of missing climber Kyle Bufis, but the Pierce County Medical Examiner will confirm the person's identity after climbing rangers retrieve the body.

The second day of the search for 25-year-old Bufis focused on a spot where the Winthrop and Emmons glaciers meet, Wold said.

Bufis was part of a three-climber team when he went missing during extreme weather near Liberty Saddle about 9 p.m. Thursday. The team had just finished climbing the challenging Liberty Ridge, a route on the north flank of Mount Rainier. The group was descending the mountain in high winds and low visibility.

The two other climbers, Derek Gavelis and Mathew Wiech, descended to Camp Schurman of their own accord late Friday. Both were tired, but in good physical condition, Wold said.

Saturday's search was conducted by two air operations, she said.

Three climbing rangers on board a U.S. Army Reserve 214th Air Division Chinook conducted a visual aerial search.

Meanwhile, helicopter from Airlift Northwest looked for signals from an avalanche beacon that they believed Bufis was carrying. They used an avalanche beacon receiver provided by King County.

The Airlift Northwest helicopter's second mission was to carry searchers while they look into crevasses from the air. Climbing rangers were on standby at Camp Muir and Camp Schurman high camps in case additional help was needed.

Weather conditions were favorable for search efforts throughout the day, Wold said.

Each year, about 10,000 people try to climb the 14,410-foot glaciated peak southeast of Seattle.