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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
More clear, calm skies on Tuesday allowed the National Park Service (NPS) aerial spotters to thoroughly search the Cassin Ridge and surrounding areas for signs of two missing Japanese climbers. Tatsuro Yamada, age 27, of Saitama-Ken, Japan and Yuto Inoue, age 24 of Tokyo, Japan were expected to return from their climb on May 22.
The NPS-contracted high altitude Lama helicopter conducted a lengthy low level flight of the search zone on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 27, while the twin engine Conquest 2 fixed wing aircraft flew three additional search flights. Overall, the Lama helicopter has flown a total of 10.1 hours in the search effort, with fixed wing aircraft searching for a total of 20.7 hours.
In addition to the aerial search, the extensive collection of photos taken on these flights is being closely analyzed by ranger and other observation staff for clues. The magnified images can be digitally modified with color and contrast to bring forth clues such as subtle tracks and snow disturbance. Thus far, the combined aerial and digital search efforts have discovered a probable former tent site at 17,000-feet on the Cassin Ridge as well as tracks on the route at approximately 16,000 feet. Both clues suggest the two climbers reached the upper elevations of the route.
National Park Service rangers will assess the flight and photo data collected through today and determine whether any additional areas warrant more coverage.