Eric Lewis - Strange Disappearances from US and Canadian National Parks

Eric Lewis, Disappeared Mount Ranier National Park, Washington state, July 1st 2010

Eric Lewis Mount Rainier

Eric Lewis, 57 of Duvall, Washington, (born October 23, 1952) was reported missing near the top of Mt. Rainier while mountain climbing July 1st 2010. Mount Rainier's peak is at 14,410 feet, located south east of Seattle, north west of Portland in Washington.

Mount Rainier map location

Eric vanished when he became separated from his two climbing companions. He went missing when they discovered that he had unclipped from the climbing rope at 14,000 feet and suddenly disappeared. The three-man team was ascending the Gibraltar Ledges route and encountered bad weather, with high wind and visibility of as little as 5 feet.

According to park officials, the climber in the lead, Don Storms, stopped and was joined by the second climber on the rope, Trevor Lane. As they waited for Eric to join them (who was last on the rope), reeling it in, they discovered only a coil of rope with a knot. They had caught glimpses of him on the the rope just moments before, and immediately searched the slope below them. They proceeded to the summit ridge in case he had skirted around them. They then returned to Camp Muir, the climbing high camp at 10,200 feet, and reported the incident to climbing rangers.

A team of climbers searched the Nisqually Ice Fall and Gibraltar Chute areas, and a Chinook helicopter flew climbing areas it seems possible he could have ended up. Climbing ranger Tom Payne and two mountain guides climbed to the summit looking for Eric on late Thursday, the day of the disappearance. The day after the search expanded, with more than 40 people involved. Ground searchers included National Park Service climbing rangers; climbing guides from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., Alpine Ascents International, and International Mountain Guides; and volunteers from Olympic Mountain Rescue.

Park rangers aboard a military Chinook helicopter from Fort Lewis and a commercial helicopter from Northwest Helicopters searched from the air. Searchers did locate Eric's backpack, climbing harness, and snow shovel at 13,600 feet, and a small snow cave at 13,800 feet. He did not have a sleeping bag, tent, food, or down jacket with him. 

Incident Commander Glenn Kessler said at the time, "The search area is high-elevation glacial terrain and demands a high level of technical skill. The odds of finding the missing climber alive must be weighed against the risk to searchers operating in such hazardous conditions," "We've thoroughly searched the areas where we were likely to find Eric Lewis, and believe it's now time to scale back. Normal patrols of the mountain with a vigilant eye toward finding clues pertaining to the missing climber will continue."

Why did Eric cut himself from the rope? Why has his body never been found?