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One climber rescued, one dead after being stuck for days near Denali summit


A photo of Denali's summit with elevation information to the summit and the “football field” where the two climbers built their snow cave. (From Denali National Park)

One of the two climbers who had been stuck near Denali's summit since Tuesday was rescued alive by a helicopter crew early Friday morning. The other died in a snow cave while waiting for help, the park administration said.

The rescue, at 19,600 feet, took place at about 7 a.m., a statement from Denali National Park and Preserve said. Clouds and high winds that had prevented flights near the mountain's summit eased Thursday evening, allowing the park's high-altitude helicopter to drop a duffel bag of supplies near the snow cave where the hypothermic climbers had sought shelter.

“The pilot observed a climber waving to him during the drop, but the wind was still too strong to safely recover the basket over a short distance,” park officials said in a statement.

On Friday morning, the helicopter returned to the area with a pilot and a park ranger.

“The surviving climber climbed into the basket and was flown down to Kahiltna Base Camp, 7,000 feet above sea level. He was then evacuated to Talkeetna State Airport and loaded into a LifeMed rescue helicopter,” park officials said.

Park spokesman Paul Ollig said there had been no news of the climbers since Wednesday evening. Rescue workers only learned of the fate of the other climber when he was flown off the mountain and later brought to Anchorage by rescue plane.

“He had explained that his partner had died about two days before his rescue,” said Ollig.

Friday's rescue was the culmination of a days-long search by air and ground forces to reach the two climbers, part of a trio from Malaysia who had summited Denali early Tuesday but then used an inReach satellite communications device to request help from the summit because they were exhausted and hypothermic and could not come down.

One of the climbers made it to the mountain's high camp later on Tuesday and was airlifted off the mountain in serious condition, while the other two sought shelter in a cave to wait for help. On Wednesday evening, they reported that their inReach had stopped working.

“We received a kind of flood of five really short messages from the climbers telling us that their inReach device battery was only at 1% charge,” Ollig said.

The deceased climber could not be immediately identified Friday morning, Ollig said, as park staff worked with the Malaysian consulate to notify his family. Park rangers plan to recover his body, Ollig said, but no exact time frame has been set.


a portrait of a man outside

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. You can reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris Here.

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