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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
The search for two Japanese climbers on the Cassin Ridge of Mt. McKinley continued on Sunday, May 25. A Cessna 206 fixed wing observation flight was launched at noon on Sunday, but it turned around due to cloud cover. Two more fixed wing flights left Talkeetna around 5:00 pm, including the Cessna 206 and a twin-engine Conquest. Spotters on both aircraft got an initial look at the route with no obvious findings, but high resolution photos taken on the flights will be scrutinized overnight for clues. An additional Conquest flight with three spotters is anticipated for later Sunday night.
The two men were expected to return from their climb of the Cassin Ridge no later than May 22. The team was last seen on May 9 at their camp at 7,800 feet near the mouth of the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, the team’s intended approach route to the ridge. The last entry of a journal found in that camp was dated May 9 at midnight, suggesting an earliest possible start date of May 10. The team reportedly expected to be on the route for 5 to 6 days.
Although the team planned to descend the mountain via the West Buttress, the Denali National Park and Preserve fixed wing aircraft did fly an initial search of possible alternate egress routes on the north side of the Alaska Range, including the Muldrow Glacier. The climbers were not spotted.
Winds were extreme at high elevations for the first two days of the search, though wind speeds began to diminish on Sunday. Cloud cover was heavy between Talkeetna and the Alaska Range on Sunday, though much of the mountain remained clear throughout the day.