With an improved weather window, search teams in Mount Rainier National Park resumed ground-based search operations early Oct. 25 for missing hiker, Dr. Sam Dubal.
Experienced search and rescue professionals from the National Park Service and 10 partner search and rescue organizations began searching for Dubal on Oct. 12 when he was first reported overdue. As weather conditions have permitted, daily searches have included ground-based field teams, canine teams, drones, helicopters and the use of Forward Looking Infrared heat detection cameras from the air.
Park rangers believe Dubal, a professor at the University of Washington, went missing while hiking the Mowich Lake area of Mount Rainier, an area that includes rugged, remote wilderness. The search area ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 feet in elevation and includes dense forests, treacherous rocky terrain, exposed subalpine meadows and mountain lakes and streams including a section of the Carbon River. Several recent winter storms have blanketed much of the area in snow and temperatures have been in the high 20s to low 30s with temperatures below freezing as low as 1,500 feet in elevation. A storm on Oct. 10, the day after Dubal began his hike, washed out the rustic river crossing he would have used to cross the Carbon River.
The NPS asks anyone who may have any information that could help investigators to contact the NPS Investigative Service Branch Tip Line. Call or text 888-653-0009, email firstname.lastname@example.org or submit tips online at www.nps.gov/ISB.
Park staff are continually monitoring search area conditions, as well as localized weather – which can change rapidly due to Mount Rainier’s terrain and the mountain’s impact on local weather conditions. Search leaders will evaluate the safety and feasibility of all search activities to ensure safety for park and partner rescue staff.
Mount Rainier National Park has experienced a record number of searches during 2020. Of the park’s more than 60 searches this year, one hiker remains missing and one mountaineer was located deceased but could not be recovered due to continuous and hazardous icefall conditions.
Many groups have assisted with the search: Olympic Mountain Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Tacoma Mountain Rescue, Central Washington Mountain Rescue, Pierce County Explorer Search and Rescue, Kitsap County Explorer Search and Rescue, Cowlitz County Search and Rescue, Pierce County German Shepard Search Dogs, Washington State Search and Rescue Planning Unit and Mount Rainier Volunteer Nordic Patrol.
Mowich Road typically closes for the season during mid-October and is currently closed due to winter conditions.