The body of an Austrian climber has been spotted on the flanks of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve, according to park officials, who say conditions prevented them from immediately recovering it.
From the location of his skis and backpack, it appears Juergen Kanzian might have fallen nearly 4,000 feet.
Mr. Kanzian, age 41 of Koetschach-Mauthen, Austria, failed to return to his camp while ascending to Denali Pass on the West Buttress route. When Mr. Kanzian failed to return to his tent at the 17,200-foot high camp after a summit attempt on Monday by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, a guided team alerted park rangers at the 14,200-foot camp.
The search for the solo climber ended Thursday evening after Denali mountaineering rangers at the 14,200-foot camp located his body using a high-powered spotting scope. The park’s A-Star B3 helicopter flew to the site and aerial observers confirmed the findings based on the color and style of the climber’s gear, although they were unable to land at the site due to the steep terrain, a park release said.
Mr. Kanzian "appeared to have fallen down a steep snow and rock gully known as the Orient
Express, coming to rest at an elevation of approximately 15,300 feet," the release said.
During a helicopter search flight Thursday afternoon the climber's backpack and skis were spotted in a rock outcropping near the edge of the ‘Football Field’ at 19,000 feet, the release added.
"It is unknown how Kanzian fell or why he diverted from his original stated plan. Weather conditions at the time of his fall included low to moderate winds, some cloud cover, temperatures near 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and several feet of new snow on the ground," it continued.
The Austrian's body will be recovered when conditions permit. This mountaineering fatality is the sixth on Mt. McKinley in 2011; three other climbing-related deaths occurred on or near other peaks in Denali National Park and Preserve this season, the park said.