A freak avalanche in the middle of the night has killed a climber in Denali National Park.
Park officials say the unidentified climber was among two parties of climbers camped near Ruth Gorge on the "Root Canal," a glacier that services as a landing strip as well as a camping area just south of a 10,300-peak known by climbers as the "Moose's Tooth."
According to a release from Denali, "a large serac, or column of ice, at the eastern end of
the glacier collapsed at approximately 1:00 a.m. Thursday, shedding ice and snow onto the camp below. One male climber was fatally injured by the falling ice. His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin."
The other four climbers found the man unconscious and barely breathing. They were able to reach park rangers with a satellite phone. However, the weather and darkness prevented a night-time rescue. Just after daybreak Thursday morning the park's high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter ferried two mountaineering rangers from Talkeetna to the accident site.
At the glacier the rangers loaded the injured climber into the helicopter to relay him to an Aeromed air ambulance from Anchorage that was staged at Mile 133 on the Parks Highway, near the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.
"During the flight the ranger/paramedic determined that the climber had died from his injuries. This was confirmed when the helicopter rendezvoused with the air ambulance," park officials said.
The NPS helicopter flew the climber’s remains back to Talkeetna, and then returned to the accident site to evacuate the surviving climbers, all of whom were uninjured but had lost their climbing gear, tents, and a pair of boots in the avalanche.
Park officials note that although the mountaineering season on Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker has only recently begun, now is the height of the spring climbing season in the Ruth Amphitheater and Ruth Gorge. In addition to the five climbers involved in the Root Canal accident, a total of 30 other registered climbers are currently attempting various peaks in this popular backcountry area of the Alaska Range, they say.