Follow-up on Fatal Fall at Denali Pass
Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
Contact: Kris Fister, (907) 301-5396
A fatal climbing fall at Denali Pass on Mt. McKinley took the lives of two mountaineers late Wednesday night May 25. Two other members of their Alpine Ascents International guided team were flown to area hospitals with critical injuries.
The fall was unwitnessed, however shortly after 11:00 pm, members of an NPS ranger patrol at the 17,200-foot high camp spotted the four-person rope team about a thousand feet below the trail from Denali Pass, and then immediately heard a shout for help. The NPS organized a hasty team consisting of Air National Guard pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron to respond to the fallen climbers. They confirmed that lead guide Suzanne Allen, age 34, of Seattle, Washington and client Peter Bullard, age 45 of Shanghai, China had died in the fall.
The other two injured clients were placed in rescue litters and lowered to the 17,200-foot high camp for emergency medical treatment. Gary Burke, age 31, of Dallas, Texas was responsive and in stable condition with a broken leg and head injury. The second patient, 30-year-old James Mohr of Camp Pendleton, California was non-responsive with labored breathing; the medics at high camp worked throughout the night to maintain the patient’s airway.
At 4:15 am on Thursday May 26, Denali National Park’s high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter flew to the 17,200-foot high camp and evacuated each patient separately. They were flown to the 7,200-foot Kahiltna Basecamp to two awaiting LifeMed air ambulances.
The bodies of the two deceased climbers will be recovered from the 17,200-foot high camp the afternoon of May 27, conditions permitting.
Details on the cause of the fall remain unknown. Similar to a fatal fall that occurred on May 16, the four-person team was beginning the traverse from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot camp along a 45-degree slope of very hard, windblown snowpack. Climbers returning from the upper elevations of the mountain report more difficult conditions than average due to the lack of new snow and an icy, wind-scoured trail.
Did You Know?
Cold temperatures limit trees from growing at high elevation in Denali. Warmer temperatures, however, have led to woody vegetation growing at ever-higher elevations. Treeline changes are a conspicuous sign of climate change.