• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Fatal Fall at Denali Pass

Denali Pass
NPS Photo

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News Release Date: May 26, 2011
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, while two other members of the climbing team were flown to area hospitals with critical injuries early the morning of May 26.

Mountaineers at the 17,200-foot high camp reportedly witnessed the four-person rope team fall from Denali Pass near 18,000 feet at approximately 11:00 pm Wednesday night. An expedition of Air National Guard pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron responded to the fallen climbers and confirmed that two of the four had died in the fall. The other two patients were placed in rescue litters and lowered to the 17,200-foot high camp for emergency medical treatment. One patient was responsive and in stable condition with a broken leg and head injury. The second patient was non-responsive with labored breathing; the Air National Guard 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.

Details on the cause of the fall are unknown. Weather at the time of the accident was clear with relatively calm winds. The four-person rope team was beginning the traverse from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot camp along a 45-degree slope of very hard, windblown snowpack. This fall occurred in the same vicinity as the fatal fall of an unroped Italian climber on May 16.

Names of the climbers involved in the fatal accident are being withheld pending notification of family and friends.

Did You Know?

a lake reflecting a tree-covered hill

The vast landscapes of interior Alaska are changing. Large glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting and woody plants are spreading. Comparison of "then-and-now" photographs and data from major vegetation monitoring should allow detection, understanding and potential management of these changes.