Nine days after the alarm was sounded, a search plane sighted Fadden's body, not on the lower reaches, but high on a glacier a mere 1,400 feet below the summit. Five climbers braved sub-zero temperatures to reach the body. What they found solved only part of the puzzle. Fadden had died, quite clearly, as a result of a long fall. His body was frozen into the glacier. One of his crampons, used for walking on hard ice, was missing. The other was partly torn from his boot. His gloves had been ripped off during the fall, and he had lost his ice ax.
A difficult and dangerous evacuation followed. It took three days to drag the body to a waiting hearse at a ranger station 9,400 feet below. The rescue had made news across the country; the searchers themselves were heroes.
More pieces of the mystery were quickly unraveled. A roll of film found in Fadden's pocket was developed, and the pictures clearly showed Rainier's summit crater. So Fadden had indeed reached the summit, a most remarkable accomplishment for a lone mountaineer climbing in the dead of winter.
The next summer two local climbers followed Fadden's trail markers and located the remains of his camp in the summit crater. They said empty cans littered the site, evidence that Fadden had spent several nights on the top.
Rainier's summit in winter is surely one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Fadden, it seems, had once again demonstrated his love of the wilderness, a love so intense he would risk his life to experience it.
No one will completely understand Fadden's inner workings. Certainly his solitary, eccentric wanderings defied the conservatism of climbers of his time. It appears that Fadden approached the wilderness world not as an aggressor, but as an artist probing its hidden beauties. He must have been so affected by the excitement of discovery that danger was pushed to the back of his mind. It has become a clich� to rationalize the deaths of mountaineers by saying they died doing what made them happy. In the case of Delmar Fadden, it is surely the truth.