IMAGE: Mount Rainier
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
Rangers believe the missing climber was killed when an avalanche swept him and his partner off the Liberty Ridge route on Washington's Mount Rainier.
updated 6/23/2004 9:35:40 AM ET 2004-06-23T13:35:40

The search for a climber missing on Mount Rainier since an accident that killed his partner has been scaled back, and a ranger says success is unlikely.

In five passes with a helicopter Tuesday, Mount Rainier National Park search and rescue supervisor Michael J. Gauthier said he saw climbing gear but no sign of Ansel Vizcaya.

Vizcaya, 29, of Missoula, Mont., vanished last week on an ascent on the Liberty Ridge route in which in which his climbing partner, Luke Casaday, 29, of Stevensville, Mont., fell to his death. Casaday’s body was recovered Thursday and Gauthier said Vizcaya most likely died along with his partner in an avalanche.

From now on, rangers will scan Liberty Ridge on each of the two or three maintenance flights conducted each month until winter, and climbers will be asked to report any sign of Vizcaya.

Gauthier said he told Vizcaya’s family that finding his body is unlikely.

“I told them that a few years ago we had a helicopter that crashed in that area and we haven’t found the helicopter,” he said.

Vizcaya would be the fourth climber to die on the Liberty Ridge route in the past two months.

Park officials say more than 11,000 people try to climb Mount Rainier annually, including about 200 via Liberty Ridge.

An average of three people a year have died in summit attempts since 1990. Vizcaya's death would be the 93rd since record-keeping started in 1887.

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