Bunker had been skiing ahead of his climbing partner near Thumb Rock on the north side of Mount Rainier at an elevation of about 10,400 feet. As they were descending from Thumb Rock, “unknown events caused his fall in steep, treacherous terrain,” the NPS statement said.
The search for him was hampered by “severe downslope winds and clouds,” the NPS said. A helicopter was able to get closer when conditions cleared, and his body was spotted in a crevasse at the base of a cliff in an area of frequent rock and ice falls. It presents “too high of a risk for rescue personnel to access the location and recover Matthew,” the NPS said.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Matthew’s loved ones and friends,” park deputy superintendent Tracy Swartout said in the statement. “It brings us a great degree of sorrow to be unable to bring him home to his family.”
A Wisconsin native, Bunker described himself as an “Army vet, ski mountaineer, ultra runner, and photographer” on his website. The Seattle Times reported he was a consultant for Deloitte. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2013, and his military service took him to the Pacific Northwest.
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Little Tahoma Number one rule of ski touring - always keep your skis on 😉 (except during lunch) Beautiful day exploring a new area of the park with Steve. The highlight was perhaps on the 4 mile ride out, Steve got a flat and we didn't have tire levers with us, but he rode it anyways. A few minutes later, a group of cyclists passed us and Steve heard one of them whisper "should we help him" and another whispered back "naw he'll be okay" 😂😂😂. Shortly after, his tire completely disintegrated and Steve carried his bike the final mile.
“I finally had the opportunity to realize my childhood dream of exploring the mountains. My love for the Cascades and the wet rainy winters grew fast,” he wrote on his website. “Over the next four years nearly every weekend that wasn’t occupied on training missions I was in the woods — mountaineering, skiing, mountain biking, and trail running. Pursuing photography on a professional level temporarily took the back seat, as my energy was devoted to the military, but I still continued to take photos of friends on our weekend trips.
“After fulfilling my five year service obligation in the summer of 2018, I made the difficult decision to leave the military and pursue a lifelong dream of being an explorer. Since separating, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to run around Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail, the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park, complete the challenging Fatdog 120 race in Manning National Park, and the iconic rim to rim to rim at the Grand Canyon. I’ve been able to ski classic ski routes such as the STS couloir, Forever Young couloir, and the Spearhead Traverse in British Columbia, among other incredible ski descents.”
In the past week, searches for two other hikers who were reported missing on Mount Rainier were underway. Park officials continue to search for Vincent Dije, a 25-year-old Indonesian student living in Seattle, and Talal Sabbagh, a 27-year-old Seattle man.
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