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Retired Oak Harbor school teacher feared lost in climbing accident
As of Tuesday morning, search and rescue teams in Whatcom County were still searching for a retired Oak Harbor teacher who disappeared in a climbing accident near Mount Larrabee last weekend.
Following unsuccessful efforts to locate Dallas Kloke, 71, of Anacortes, on Sunday, a two-man team in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Blackhawk helicopter early Monday searched the lower elevations of the drainage where Kloke is believed to have fallen.
The aircrew could not find him and believe he may be higher up in the cloud cover, said Deputy George Ratazczak, search and rescue coordinator for the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office in a news release.
However, it appears the air crews took to the air again later that day as several news agencies reported Tuesday that Kloke may have been spotted in pictures taken during the flight. His condition is unknown.
Kloke was part of five-person team climbing the Pleiades peaks in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Saturday, Sept. 25. At about 1:30 p.m. while scaling one of the eastern peaks, one man had just reached the summit when Kloke, the next in line, fell after a rock he was gripping gave way. Both he and the rock disappeared down a near vertical cliff face, the news release said.
The other climbers lost sight of him due to the steep terrain and the distance down the cliff face. They descended about 300 feet and found some of Kloke’s equipment but could not locate the man. They then climbed down the mountain to call for help.
Kloke was a longtime core teacher at Oak Harbor Middle School. School District Superintendent Rick Schulte said he doesn’t know Kloke personally, as he was just retiring when he arrived, but does know him by reputation.
“I knew of him as a climber,” he said. During his career he reportedly taught at Oak Harbor Elementary, Oak Harbor Middle School and North Whidbey Middle School.
Kloke is widely recognized as a top-notch mountain climber that’s been tramping the North Cascades for more than 50 years. He is the author of “Rock the Rocks,” a climbing and route guide for Mount Erie near Lake Campbell south of Anacortes.
The nature of the terrain around the Pleiades and the weather have severely hampered efforts to locate Kloke, said Ratazczak in the news release.
A team of Bellingham Mountain Rescue climbers also began climbing into the area Monday morning but weather forced them to turn back. They were planning to attempt another search Tuesday but it also will be subject to weather conditions.