An apparent avalanche has killed two climbers attempting a new route on the west face of Mount Frances, a 10,450-foot peak just north of the Kahiltna Basecamp on Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve.
The climbers, 33-year-old Jiro Kurihara of Canmore, Alberta, and 28-year-old Junya Shiraishi, of Sapporo, Japan, were reported missing when they failed to return to their camp by May 23, two days after they left the Kahiltna Basecamp, according to park officials.
When they had not returned to their campsite by May 23, NPS rangers skied to the western face with a spotting scope, but did not observe the two climbers, a park release said. "On the morning of Tuesday, May 24, mountaineering rangers on board the park’s contracted A-Star B3 helicopter did an aerial search of the peak and identified one body lying in avalanche debris, with a partially buried rope attached," it continued.
"Rangers flew back to the debris zone early Wednesday morning May 25 when the colder morning temperatures created a safer recovery operation. Rangers were able to locate and recover the bodies of both men using helicopter shorthaul technique," the release said.
The climbers had flown into the Alaska Range on April 27 with original plans of climbing the Cassin Ridge of Denali, according to park records. The team had recently completed a successful ascent of Denali’s West Buttress route when the accident occurred, park officials said, adding that these are the first two fatalities reported to have occurred on Mount Frances.