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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
Clear skies and milder winds enabled National Park Service (NPS) aerial spotters to make several flights under optimum observation conditions in the search for two Japanese climbers on Mt. McKinley, but the climbers were not seen.
The high altitude Lama helicopter conducted a slow, low level search of the route, and the Denali mountaineering ranger on board confirmed a probable former tent site in the vicinity of 17,000 feet on the Cassin Ridge. Another climbing party who had ascended a variation of the Slovak Direct route, a route that merges with the Cassin Ridge at approximately 16,400-feet, reported seeing this probable tent site on May 17. As no other parties have reported climbing the route yet this season, and the tent site appears to be relatively recent, the discovery suggests the two missing climbers reached this point on the route.
The twin engine Conquest 2 fixed wing aircraft also conducted two search flights throughout the day on Monday May 26, with an additional search flight scheduled for later in the evening. Mountaineering rangers and other experienced aerial observers were able to cover considerable territory, collecting extensive photo imagery which is currently being analyzed for further clues.
The NPS plans to launch more aerial search flights on Tuesday.
In addition to the active search in progress, a climber with frostbitten hands is currently being treated at the 14,200-foot camp on the West Buttress route of Mt. McKinley. The Lama helicopter attempted to evacuate the climber on Monday evening at 6:00 pm, but was turned around due to increasing clouds.