Mark Mahaney understood the difficulty of the Mount Rainier climb that would take his life.
In a Facebook post in mid April, the Minnesota native and avid climber mapped the ascent up the mountain’s treacherous north side, predicting “nothing will be easy on this climb.”
Mahaney, 26, of St. Paul, was among a group of six people, including two guides, believed dead Sunday following a rockslide or avalanche on Mount Rainier in Washington. A helicopter search of the area Saturday picked up pings from avalanche beacons and found a debris field of climbing and camping gear spread out on Carbon Glacier at an elevation of about 9,500 feet — about 3,300 feet below the spot where the climbers were camping on Wednesday evening when they last checked in, said Fawn Bauer, spokeswoman for the National Park Service.
“The group had called into Alpine Ascents saying things were going good but that there was some weather coming in,” Bauer said.
“It’s incredibly steep terrain,” Bauer said. “It’s almost like free falling … 3,000 feet of rocks and ice.”
Search crews on the ground and in helicopters worked until about 4 p.m. Saturday, she said. Ultimately they determined it was too dangerous to try to recover the bodies, which are all believed to be on the Carbon Glacier.
“Glaciers move, so it’s possible they could move down with that ice to a place that is less dangerous.” she said. “It’s always possible that after a snow meltout in fall as well, that we might be able to see more.”
The Park Service will have helicopters searching the area over the coming months, but can’t do a ground search due to the high risk.
Bauer estimated that there are probably over 100 bodies on Mount Rainier that have never been recovered.
Rob Mahaney, Mark Mahaney’s uncle, said Sunday that devastated family members who had headed to Washington are now returning home. He said Mark’s brother put it well: “Mark is with the mountain.”
Mahaney was following his dream, his uncle told the Star Tribune on Saturday, and had two great passions in his life: his girlfriend and climbing. He was an experienced climber who had scaled Mount McKinley in Alaska and had climbed Mount Rainier once before.
Longtime friend Josh Barke said Mahaney’s girlfriend is dealing with the tragedy as well as she can. She declined to talk Sunday.
Barke and Mahaney both graduated from Prior Lake High School. Mahaney was already into climbing then, Barke said, but became much more focused in the last few years. He played hockey in high school, Barke said, and “always wanted to push himself.”
Mahaney trained hard for the Mount Rainier climb, he said.
“He was biking 20-30 miles a day,” Barke said. “He put his heart and soul into getting ready for this.”
After graduating from Hennepin Technical College, Mahaney worked in software. On his LinkedIn profile, he listed his most recent job as a lead quality assurance analyst at GovDelivery Inc., a St. Paul-based company that provides digital channels for public sector organizations to communicate with the public.
Scott Burns, the company’s chief executive and co-founder, called Mahaney “an outstanding member of our team.”
“He was a talented and driven man,” Burns said. “He brought his positive attitude and strong work ethic to the office every day.”
Mount Rainier, visible from Seattle on clear days, stands about 14,410 feet and attracts climbers from all over the world. Last year, about 11,000 people attempted to reach the summit. Usually about half of those trying to reach the top make it, according to the Park Service. It’s about the 17th highest mountain peak in the United States.
Staff Writer Jim Anderson contributed to this report.