Image: Mt. Rainier
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
Snow and fog limit visibility near the visitor center at Paradise on Mount Rainier, Wash., on Tuesday.
updated 6/11/2008 10:00:25 AM ET 2008-06-11T14:00:25

An Army Chinook helicopter rescued two hikers Wednesday who were stranded high on Mount Rainier's flank after a late-spring blizzard.

They were picked up about 6:15 a.m. at Camp Muir for a flight to Madigan Hospital at the Army's Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, for treatment or transport to another hospital, Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher said.

The man and woman had frostbite and hypothermia from being caught overnight Monday in a blizzard, which left the woman's husband dead.

The three had been on a day hike to Camp Muir when they were caught in the storm that dumped 2 feet of snow. Camp Muir is at about 10,000 feet elevation on the 14,410-foot mountain.

Bacher said the three people were experienced climbers and two had reached the top of Mount Rainier before.

Three doctors, clients of a climbing concessionaire in the park, were at Camp Muir with the two surviving hikers, who were suffering from frostbite and hypothermia but were in stable condition, Bacher said.

The three hikers were described as two men and a woman in their early 30s, all from Bellevue, east of Seattle. The dead hiker was the woman's husband, Bacher said.

After a winter of heavy snowfall that forced repeated closure of mountain passes, unseasonably cold conditions have continued long into spring in Washington's Cascade Range. Paradise, the jumping-off point for the trail to Camp Muir, received 2 feet of fresh snow overnight, with 5-foot drifts at the camp, Bacher said.

Bacher said rangers received a call at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday that the hikers were trapped in a blizzard.

Weather prevented a rescue attempt at that time, but one of the hikers reached Camp Muir at 7:15 a.m. The other hikers were found near Anvil Rock, a large outcropping at the edge of the Muir snowfield about 500 feet lower than Camp Muir.

Waited out storm
International Mountain Guides had eight climbing clients and four guides at Camp Muir, while Rainier Mountaineering Inc. had 15 clients and a handful of guides there Tuesday. Both companies said then that their employees and clients were doing well, but hunkered down awaiting better weather.

"I do know it was a tough night up there for the weather, just because of what they were forecasting — high winds and low visibility and snow," said Jeff Martin, RMI operations manager. "Definitely not your typical June weather."

The bodies of two other hikers were found in California's Sierra Nevada backcountry last week.

El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Les Lovell said an autopsy performed Tuesday revealed that 70-year-old Thomas Hylton died of a heart of attack on June 2, the day he and 78-year-old Jerome Smith set out for a four-day backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness just west of Lake Tahoe.

Smith left for help after his friend collapsed but fell down a hillside on his way back to the highway. The sheriff's office said he died from his injuries and exposure to the chilly overnight temperature.

The men's families reported them missing Thursday when they failed to return home to Lincoln, a bedroom community north of Sacramento.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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