Alpine Experience climbing buyer feared dead on Rainier

The search on Mount Rainier for a stranded climber and outdoor retail buyer has been suspended due to weather and signs that Rob Plankers may have perished in a slide or fall.
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The search on Mount Rainier for a stranded climber and outdoor retail buyer was suspended late June 14 due to weather and signs that Rob Plankers (photo, right) may have perished in a slide or fall.

The mission is now considered “a body recovery”, national park officials said.

Plankers, a camping and climbing buyer and senior manager at The Alpine Experience outdoor shop in Olympia, Wash., was left on Liberty Ridge at about 13,600 feet June 13 after he showed signs of hypothermia and could no longer walk. His two climbing partners descended to get help.

Two separate rescue missions late June 13 were turned back to due to high winds. Plankers was said to have a supplies and a shelter, which was perhaps a bivy or a one-man tent, The Alpine Experience owner Joe Hyer told SNEWS.

“He was a very experienced climber and knew how to be prepared,” Hyer said.

On June 14, rangers reportedly located Plankers’ camp, finding just a pack and some supplies, Hyer said. There were slide tracks in the snow indicating something had slid about 2,000 feet to rough terrain below.

Plankers and two other climbers, identified by local media as a couple from Colorado, set out June 10 from White River to summit the 14,411-foot mountain in Washington. They had intended to return June 12. The couple came into Camp Sherman June 13, alerting authorities to Plankers’ location.

Plankers, 50, has worked at The Alpine Experience since 1999, Hyer said. He and his wife, Jackie, have been married for 14 years. Plankers served in the Army for 20 years, retiring in 1999 as a master sergeant. A month later, he was working at The Alpine Experience.

“The word that sums up Rob is 'service,'” Hyer told SNEWS. “He served his country and then immediately jumped in to serve his community and the outdoor industry.”

Hyer said he first met Plankers in 1996 when Plankers took a basic climbing course at the store.

“He was a good customer for three years and then became part of our team and family,” Hyer said.

Plankers is fiercely loyal to the store, the outdoor industry and lesser-known gear brands like Hilleberg tents, Hyer said. “He has a strong independent streak. Rob really believes specialty retail is about bringing in special products,” he said. “We had to put a limit on how many new products and brands he could bring in.”

Hyer said he is waiting on word from the family to see how best the store and customers can help.

-- David Clucas

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