Climber dies after 1,000ft fall from Alaska mountain

The two-person climbing team were ascending ‘the Escalator’ on Mt Johnson, an 8,400-foot peak in Denali National Park, when they fell

Andrea Cavallier
Saturday 27 April 2024 19:16 BST
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One person is dead and another injured after the two-person team fell approximately 1,000 feet while climbing Mt. Johnson, an 8,400-foot peak located in Denali National Park and Preserve’s Ruth Gorge, on 25 April
One person is dead and another injured after the two-person team fell approximately 1,000 feet while climbing Mt. Johnson, an 8,400-foot peak located in Denali National Park and Preserve’s Ruth Gorge, on 25 April (National Park Service)

One climber has died and another has been seriously injured after falling 1,000 feet off a steep Alaska mountain in Denali National Park, officials say.

The two-person climbing team was ascending a route on Mt Johnson that is known as “the Escalator,” a steep and technical alpine climb, when they fell from the 8,400-foot peak on 25 April.

Park officials said the approximately 5,000-foot route involves navigating a mix of steep rock, ice, and snow.

Another climbing party on the route witnessed the fall and alerted the Alaska Regional Communication Center at approximately 10:45pm, the National Park Service said in a statement.

“The reporting party then descended to the accident victims and confirmed one climber had died in the fall. The responders dug a snow cave and attended to the surviving climber’s injuries throughout the night.”

Park officials said the approximately 5,000-foot route involves navigating a mix of steep rock, ice, and snow
Park officials said the approximately 5,000-foot route involves navigating a mix of steep rock, ice, and snow (National Park Service)

Early the next day, a rescue helicopter and two mountaineering rangers arrived in the area and were able to rescue the injured climber, who was transported for additional medical care.

“Together, the ranger and injured patient were short-hauled out to a flat glacier staging area, and then loaded into the helicopter for the flight to Talkeetna,” according to the statement.

“The patient was transferred to a LifeMed air ambulance at the Talkeetna State Airport for further care.”

The helicopter and rangers returned to the mountain later to recover the body of the climber who died but were forced back by deteriorating weather, the statement said.

Rangers plan to return when conditions allow, according to park officials.

The identity of the deceased climber is being withheld until family members are notified. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

In May 2022, solo Australian climber Matthias Riimi, 35, was reported dead four days after he went missing on Denali.

Later that same month, a Japanese climber died after falling through an ice bridge into a crevasse on Mount Hunter. The 43-year-old climber, not officially named by authorities, was unroped from his teammates when he fell through a weak ice bridge near their camp at approximately 8,000ft on the southeast fork of Kahiltna Glacier.

In June 2022, Fernando Birman, 48, a climber from New Jersey, died at an elevation of 19,700ft while trying to reach the top of the mountain.

As soon as Birman collapsed, his mountain guides initiated CPR but he never regained a pulse and was pronounced dead at the scene, the park service said. While the cause of his death is unknown, it was consistent with that of a heart attack.

Denali, which measures 20,310ft, is the highest mountain peak in North America.

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