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Friday, June 7, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Two more dead on Mount Rainier

Seattle Times staff reporter

Eight days after three people perished on Mount Rainier, the 14,411-foot volcano yesterday claimed the lives of two more climbers.

Benjamin Hernstedt, 25, of Tigard, Ore., and Jeffrey Dupuis, 21, of Big Flats, N.Y., were taking the popular Ingraham Glacier route on the south side of the mountain when they appeared to have slid down a steep slope, said Jill Hawk, chief ranger of Mount Rainier National Park.

Their bodies were discovered from the air around 5:30 p.m. at 12,500 feet and were recovered by a Chinook helicopter a few hours later.

It's not clear when the accident occurred, although a park ranger happened upon the two men at Ingraham Flats, at 11,200 feet, at about 9 p.m. Wednesday, when they were beginning an ascent to the summit. He asked why they were making the attempt earlier than most.

"The weather had been cold and windy, and he noted that they were traveling without overnight gear," said Hawk. "It's very common for experienced climbers to travel light, to do a summit climb and come back down, but you always want to be sure that they're experienced."

Hawk said most climbers leave around midnight or 1 a.m. for the summit.

"That was one reason why the ranger questioned them," she said.

Earlier yesterday, rangers got a call that a climbing party had fallen into a crevasse. A guide and two clients fell, but the guide managed to extricate himself. After assisting in the rescue of the two clients, rangers checked on the tent of Hernstedt and Dupuis.

"It was obvious that no one had been there for the evening," Hawk said. "It had been all night, 17 to 18 hours. They should have been back to the tent from the summit."

The search began for the men then. According to cards they filled out before their climb, neither had climbed Mount Rainier before, Hawk said.

It appeared the men had reached the summit and were descending when they fell, she said.

On May 29, Cornelius Beilharz, and Grit Kleinschmidt, both 26 and from Germany, and Keeta Owens, 21, of Lebanon, Ore., fell high on the mountain in fierce winds and a whiteout.

Andreas Kurth, 29, also from Germany, was the group's lone survivor.

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