Mt. McKinley Fall Claims Lives of Two Climbers

A climbing fall on Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park & Preserve took the lives of two mountaineers late Wednesday night. Two others sustained life-threatening injuries.

According to Maureen McLaughlin, mountaineering administration and public information officer at the Talkeetna Ranger Station, mountaineers at the 17,200-foot high camp witnessed the four-person rope team fall from Denali Pass near 18,000 feet at approximately 11:00 p.m. Wednesday night.

Air National Guard pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron determined that two of the four climbers died in the fall. The other two climbers, both critically injured, were placed in rescue litters and lowered to the high camp for emergency medical treatment. One of the victims was responsive and stabilized with a broken leg and head injury. The other was nonresponsive with labored breathing, and Air National Guard medics at high camp had to work throughout the night to maintain his airway.

Early Thursday morning, Denali National Park’s high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter was used to evacuate the patients, delivering them in separate flights to two LifeMed air ambulances waiting at the 7,200-foot Kahiltna Basecamp.

Names of the climbers are being withheld pending notification of family and friends.

The cause of the fall is being investigated. The accident, which occurred in clear weather with relatively calm winds, happened as the four-person rope team was beginning the traverse from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot high camp along a 45-degree slope of very hard, windblown snowpack. The fatal fall of an unroped Italian climber on May 16 occurred in the same vicinity. Two other climbers were killed shortly after that in a fall on nearby Mount Frances, a 10,450-foot peak just north of the Kahiltna Basecamp.