SEATTLE - Six climbers are presumed dead after a fall from one of the most technical and physically grueling routes on Washington state's Mount Rainier.
Mt. Rainier Climbing Ranger Peter Ellis was one of three people who searched the area of Liberty Ridge on foot.
"It's steep terrain, 40-degree slopes, rock bends intersecting, mostly all snow and exposed glacier ice." said Ellis.
The area has become so dangerous, ground crews were called off. The search will now go into a ongoing and continuous mode, where air searches will resume whenever the helicopter goes up in coming weeks and months. Rescuers acknowledged they may never know just what happened.
"It's always challenging but at the end of the day, rescue safety is number one," said Ellis.
The identities of the two guides from Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International were released on its website Monday. The company and Mount Rainier National Park have refused to release other names, citing privacy issues, but family members and colleagues have released details on three other climbers.
More than 100 people commented on Alpine Ascents' Facebook page remembering the lead guide on the Mount Rainier journey, who was a resident of Truckee, California. Hegeman led climbs throughout northern California and had done extensive rock climbing throughout the state, the company said.
"Matt, intense, philosophical and driven by the right way to do things, left an indelible mark on all around him. His pursuit for excellence was matched by his sense of camaraderie and humor," the company wrote on its website.
Holly Mullally, wife of one of the victims, issued a statement to The Seattle Times on Monday saying she had climbed with Hegeman.
"I respected his leadership and found him to be experienced, skilled, appropriately conservative, thoughtful, and someone who I could count on to keep my husband safe, barring tragedy beyond our control," she wrote of the guide.
He started his career as a mountain guide after receiving a degree in anthropology at Colby College in Maine, according to Alpine Ascents and the college.
Green worked at the climbing company since 2009 and climbed, trekked and guided trips all over the world, including in India, Nepal, Alaska and Argentina, the company's website said.
"Eitan, quick with a smile and exuberant, had that infectious nature of guides who love their work and time in the mountains. His talent as a strong leader and critical thinker in the wilderness was unsurpassed," Alpine Ascents officials wrote on the groups' website.
Colby College spokesman Steve Collins said the Massachusetts native graduated in 2009 and was a member of the college mountaineering club. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday in Levine Chapel in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The Seattle mountain climber "died doing what he loved," according to his wife's statement to The Seattle Times.
"John was an amazing husband, father, friend, mountaineer, and all around human being," Holly Mullally wrote. "John lived to climb mountains, and had his first summit of Mount Rainier in his early 20s. Although my heart is broken, I find peace in the knowledge that he died doing what he loved."
She wrote that her husband was a "truly self-made man" who worked at Microsoft for more than 20 years, starting in the manufacturing division in his late teens, working his way up to program manager in the Windows division.
Besides his wife, John Mullally is survived by his parents, two sisters and two daughters, ages 5 and 9. Holly Mullally wrote that an educational memorial fund will be set up on their behalf.
Even as a toddler, Mahaney had a knack for climbing. The St. Paul, Minnesota, man often tried to get out of his crib or would climb on his parents' table, said his uncle Rob Mahaney.
He said his nephew's passion for scaling things brought him to Washington state last week to attempt his second ascent of Mount Rainier.
"He loved the outdoors, he loved the exhilaration of being in the wide open," Rob Mahaney said.
The 26-year-old graduated from Prior Lake High School southwest of St. Paul and then moved to St. Paul, where he became a quality-assurance analyst for a high-tech company. He was the youngest of five children.
Marty, a vice president and managing director of Intel Corp. in Southeast Asia who was based in Singapore, was a seasoned climber who made annual treks, colleague and Intel spokesman Bill Calder said.
Calder says other friends told him that Marty had climbed Rainier before. He said that Marty was "widely loved and respected at this company."
"We are most definitely mourning his loss here," Calder told The Associated Press. According to his biography on Intel's website, Marty managed sales and marketing in the region and had previously managed global notebook marketing out of Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara, California. He joined the company in 1996.
"He was a guy with a great attitude, and he always had a big smile," Calder said.