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Contact: Maureen Gualtieri, 907-733-9103
DENALI NATIONAL PARK, AK: Two climbers from Idaho were rescued from 7,500 feet on Mount Dickey after triggering a slab avalanche the evening of Monday, May 11. Luckily, Saxon Spellman, age 27 from Pocatello, and Michael Wachs, age 24 from Idaho Falls, were not caught in the slide and were not injured. The team attempted to self-evacuate from the mountain, however found no safe exit routes. The stranded climbers were observed by an air taxi pilot waving their arms above an 'SOS' stomped out in the snow on the west shoulder of Mount Dickey.
Once NPS ranger staff was notified of the distress call, Denali's high altitude A-Star B3e helicopter and two mountaineering rangers flew to the Ruth Gorge. Rangers made a positive identification of the two climbers, who had just activated their SPOT device. Pilot Andy Hermansky was able to land the helicopter on a flat section of the peak, and evacuated Spellman and Wachs without further incident.
Mount Dickey is a 9,545-foot technical peak located in Denali National Park and Preserve's Ruth Gorge area. No other climbers besides Spellman and Wachs were observed climbing Mount Dickey that day.
Following several new feet of snow coupled with windy conditions in the Alaska Range, NPS rangers have observed widespread avalanche activity in the Ruth and Kahiltna Glacier areas. Following the one near miss on Mount Dickey which took place multiple days after the storm, the avalanche conditions appear to be lingering. Rangers have observed the conditions to be widespread, occurring on multiple aspects of the peaks and spanning a broad range of elevations. Climbers are advised to exercise caution due to the persistent nature of the avalanche hazard. For ongoing condition reports, climbers are directed to www.nps.gov/dena/mountainblog.htm.