The body of skier Matthew Bunker, 28, was located along the base of Mount Rainier’s Liberty Ridge on June 29. Bunker fell due to unknown reasons around the Thumb Rock feature at approximately 10,400 feet while descending the route on Friday, June 26.
The National Park Service mobilized ground and aerial search-and-rescue units to locate Bunker and found his body in a crevasse along the base of the ridge. While the helicopter rescue team was initially unable to scout the base of the ridge on multiple expeditions due to severe down-slope winds and cloud cover, the weather calmed on June 29 and the team was able to survey the area and successfully locate Bunker.
But unfortunately, according to the NPS, the area is subject to continuous rock and icefall. The hazards posed too high of a risk for rescue personnel to access the location and recover Bunker.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Matthew’s loved ones and friends” stated Tracy Swartout, Deputy Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park in the NPS official statement. “It brings us a great degree of sorrow to be unable to bring him home to his family.”
The search for Bunker marked the third separate search and rescue effort concurrently underway in the National Park, adding strain to existing efforts. The park’s SAR teams have had their hands full looking for two unrelated hikers who each went missing in the park earlier in the week.
The site of Bunker’s fall was near the location of a tragic 2014 accident that took the lives of six climbers.
Liberty Ridge is an iconic climb and extreme skiing descent, made famous in Alan Steck and Steve Roper’s 50 Classic Climbs in North America, first descended on skis by Chris Landry in 1980 during an 11-day trip with Doug Robinson.
Skiers who knew Bunker shared some memories of him in the Turns All Year Facebook page, popular with Pacific Northwest skiers.