Belgian Climber Falls 100 Feet To His Death on Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve

A Belgium climber was killed by a 100-foot fall while he was leading a technical route up Cassin Ridge on Mount McKinley. NPS photo.

A Belgian mountaineer leading an ascent up a technical section of Cassin Ridge on Mount McKinley in Denali National Park fell roughly 100 feet to his death when his anchor seemingly failed, park officials said Tuesday.

Joris Van Reeth, 27, of Borgerhout, Belgium, was the fourth climber to die on the mountain this season.

According to a park release, Mr. Van Reeth was leading a route up the so-called Japanese Couloir when his anchor appeared to fail and he fell 100 feet in rocky terrain Monday afternoon. The climber fell to the approximate elevation of his partner Sam Van Brempt, 24, who was positioned below him, the release said. Mr. Van Brempt was not injured, and after confirming that his friend had died in the fall, he used his satellite phone to call
Denali National Park rescue personnel.

A climbing ranger was flown in the park helicopter to Mr. Van Brempt’s location at the 13,000-foot level to assess the terrain for a possible shorthaul rescue, although fog and clouds moved in before a rescue could be performed, said park officials.

While on the reconnaissance flight, the ranger had observed a second, unrelated team climbing on the route several hundred feet below the Belgian party. According to Mr. Van Brempt, who called back via satellite phone later that night, two Japanese climbers reached him in the early evening and assisted him in lowering his friend's body down to a safer location just above the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier at 11,500 feet.

When weather permits, Denali mountaineering rangers will evacuate both Mr. Van Brempt and the remains of Mr. Van Reeth.

In mid-May, a French climber died fell to his death while trying to stop a sled holding his gear from sliding off a section of the West Buttress.

In late May two men climbing in the Ruth Gorge area of Mount McKinley were killed when an avalanche swept down upon them.