Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
Denali National Park & Preserve rescue personnel confirmed a fatal avalanche accident on Mt. Barrille in the park’s Ruth Gorge late Friday May 19. Two climbers were killed while attempting the Japanese Couloir route on the peak’s east face.
The avalanche likely occurred late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The pair was observed starting the 10- to 15-hour climb at approximately 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, leaving their skis at the base of the route. Thursday afternoon, another climbing party notified an NPS ranger patrol in the Ruth Gorge that the team was overdue and skis were still sitting at the base of Mt. Barrille. Whiteout conditions on Thursday evening and most of Friday precluded a surveillance flight or a ground-based investigation.
When skies cleared Friday evening, the NPS-contracted Lama helicopter flew to the peak. At approximately 9:30 p.m., two NPS rangers on board the helicopter observed climber tracks leading into an area where a slab avalanche had released from a shallow gully near the summit ridge. Following the fall line down, rangers spotted what appeared to be two figures in avalanche debris at the base of peak. Due to flat light and decreasing visibility, the Lama and crew returned to Talkeetna.
On Saturday, the Lama helicopter returned to the debris area with two mountaineering rangers. The deceased climbers identities were confirmed, and their bodies and gear were flown from the accident site back to Talkeetna. The names of the two climbers will be released once their families are notified.
Mt. Barrille, at 7,650-feet, is one of the more frequently climbed peaks in the Ruth Gorge with multiple routes ranging in technical difficulty. The Japanese Couloir is a moderate, Alaska grade III route featuring steep snow and ice.
*********The bodies of the two climbers who died in a climbing fall on Mt. McKinley were recovered from the 17,200-foot High Camp when winds subsided Saturday morning. Mizuki Takahashi and Brian Massey fell 1,900 feet after ascending the Upper West Rib route on Thursday evening May 17.
Last updated: April 14, 2015