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Search on Mt. Rainier called off for St. Paul climber, 5 others

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Rescuers called off the search and recovery efforts for the six climbers believed to have fallen 3,300 feet to their deaths Washington state's Mount Rainier.

The Pioneer Press reports that St. Paul resident Mark Mahaney, 26, is one of those believed lost in one of the worst alpine accidents in decades. KIRO in Seattle reported that the climbers "likely perished," noting that helicopters detected pings from avalanche beacons and spotted climbing gear thousands of feet below the group's last known location.

Calling off the search on Sunday ended any hopes that the climbers could still be found alive. Mahaney's family and friends, who had traveled to Washington during the search, left to return home Sunday night.

"That by far was the hardest thing about this weekend," said Mahaney's uncle, Rob Mahaney, 53, of Elko, Minnesota. "Everyone wants to believe that there could be a miracle."

Fox News reported that the National Park Service said it was too dangerous for rescuers to try to recover the climbers from the avalanche-prone area.

"People are very understanding that we cannot risk another life at this point," park spokeswoman Patti Wold said Sunday.

As snow melts and conditions on the mountain change, searchers will reevaluate whether they can safely go in and recover the remains of those missing. The site will be checked periodically by aircraft.

Mahaney, a graduate of Prior Lake High School, was an experienced climber and had climbed Mount Rainier once before. He had also summited Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain peak. "Nothing will be easy on this climb," Mark Mahaney wrote on his Facebook page last month. Seattle's KING added that the route is one of the more technical and physically grueling routes to the peak of Mount Rainier

Mahaney's group had satellite and mobile phones and were last heard from on Wednesday evening when they reported they would camp overnight at Liberty Ridge, at an elevation of 12,800 feet. It's unclear whether the climbers were moving or camping at the time of the accident. Rescuers speculate that a rock fall or avalanche caused the climbers to fall.

The group included two experienced guides from a Seattle-based company, which requires qualified clients to be evaluated by a three-person team.

Mount Rainier, southeast of Seattle, stands at 14,410 feet and attracts thousands of climbers trying to reach its summit every year. Last year, about 10,800 people attempted to climb the 14,410-foot glaciated peak, but only 129 used the Liberty Ridge route, according to park statistics.

This is believed to be the worst alpine accident on the mountain since 1981, when 11 people were killed by a massive ice fall.

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