Two Climbers Rescued from the Kahiltna Glacier

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Courtesy National Park Service

June 5, 2017

TALKEETNA, Alaska – Denali National Park and Preserve rangers responded to two concurrent mountaineering incidents starting in the early morning hours of Monday, June 5. In addition to a routine medical evacuation, mountaineering rangers and guides rescued a critically injured climber in a labor intensive, 14-hour crevasse rescue effort.

First, NPS Ranger Dan Corn and five mountaineering Volunteers-in-Parks (VIPs) were descending to the Kahiltna Basecamp around 11 p.m. on Sunday, June 4 when they encountered a sick solo climber at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill at 7,000 feet. VIP Medic Elizabeth Keane performed a physical assessment and determined that Michael Metzler, age 23 of Carnation, Washington, was suffering from an acute abdominal illness. The team provided pain medication and then assisted Metzler to the Kahiltna Basecamp.


Climber rescued from Mount Hunter

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April 3, 2016

TALKEETNA, AK — Denali National Park and Preserve rescue personnel conducted a short-haul helicopter rescue of a stranded climber on Mount Hunter (14,573-feet) on Sunday afternoon, April 3, according to the National Park Service. Masatoshi Kuriaki, age 42 of Fukuoka, Japan, was evacuated from an elevation of 8,600 feet on Mount Hunter’s West Ridge climbing route. He was on Day 75 of a planned 65-day solo expedition.

Denali National Park and Preserve’s Communications Center received an SOS notification at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, April 1 from Kuriaki’s SPOT unit, a device which provides GPS tracking and limited one way emergency communication. Denali mountaineering rangers then requested initial assistance from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. At 10 a.m. that morning, the Alaska Air National Guard launched an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and an HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, each with a team of Air National Guard Pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron. Marginal weather prevented the Pave Hawk crew from approaching Mount Hunter; however the crew aboard the HC-130 was able to make positive radio contact with the stranded climber at 10:30 a.m. on April 1. More

Rail signal in the forest

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What happens when I find an old railroad signal platform in the woods?

If it’s not too rusty, I’m going climb it.

The weathered pole, complete with light housing, blended in with the trees, hiding until we were right next to it.

The fact it had a ladder made the decision to climb a no brainer, at least for me. My 8-year-old daughter took one look at the structure and decided to remain on the ground. Smart girl there.

From the looks of the elevation and the straightness, the path we had been following used to be a train track, and we had been seeing rotting wooden utility poles mixed in with the trees at regular intervals.

The narrow ladder proved to be sturdier than I expected, as was the top landing and thin guard rail. Sturdy stuff. They don’t make things like this any more. Neglected for decades and still strong as ever. The light housing opened like a mailbox, all of the internal wiring was gone, replaced by an abandoned bird’s nest.


Florine Completes 100th Ascent of the Nose Route in Yosemite

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photo courtesy National Park Service

By National Park Service
Hans Florine, world renowned rock climber, completed his 100th ascent of the Nose Route of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on Saturday, September 12, 2015.
Florine, along with Jayme Moye , an adventure writer from Boulder, Colorado , and Fiona Thornewell, an adventurer from London, England finished the ascent on Saturday afternoon, after beginning the climb on Thursday, September 10, 2015. This was the first time climbing El Capitan for both Moye and Thornewell. Florine’s first ascent of El Capitan was completed in 1989. The summit of El Capitan is 7,569 feet above sea level, and the climb from the floor of Yosemite Valley (at 4,000 feet) represents over 3,000 vertical feet of climbing. 
For more click here.

Climbing in the land of no mountains

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Maybe it’s a sign of insanity. Or maybe just cabin fever.

On Tuesday, I stood outside in the below zero weather, soaking up the windchill and documenting a farm house fire. Out in the rural Midwest, there are no trees to buffer the wind, so it rips across the frozen terrain, cutting through everything in its path.
Two days later, it was another house fire, but the temperatures were lower. The wind was so fierce, my filings hurt, and my phone died when I tried to update my boss. That day, when I arrived home, I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat on the couch sipping warm tea until bedtime.
So, when Saturday came around, what did I do?
Ice climbing, of course.
Being the land of agricultural sprawl, the area doesn’t have much in the way of mountains or giant waterfalls to scale. There are a few good sledding hills, but not enough to justify downhill skilng. But there are plenty of old grain silos, so a few years ago a local university athletics professor teamed up with a farmer to hose down a dormant tower in the middle of winter. The resulting ice columns have been a draw ever since.
A $35 day pass includes safety gear, foot spikes and ice axes and access to a propane-heated warming house (formerly some farm outbuilding) with hot chocolate between assents. There’s even a friendly farm dog that comes around.
The 80-foot tall silo has five lanes rigged with top ropes and manned with belay buddies. The instructors say silo climbing is some of the most challenging. Natural waterfalls tend to freeze at an angle, but silo ice runs straight down. Only one in 12 make it all the way to the top on the first try, one instructor tells me. Another says it’s more like one in 20.
Saturday was a balmy 20 degrees Fahrenheit with light wind. This was my first time ice climbing. I’ve done rock climbing before (and I brought my own helmet but didn’t need my chalk bag) but not all the techniques transfer. I kept trying to find purchase with the side of my foot instead of kicking in a toe crampon. When I did kick, it was a bit too hard.
The climbing was slippery, and wielding the axes burned out my forearms before I got too far. After awhile, I learned to use my legs and ease up on the grip whenever possible to give the arms a rest. I had one minor fall when my hand slipped and left an ax sticking in an ice pillar. My belay locked the rope, and I swung to the left and then worked my way back to retrieve the tool.
In the end, I wasn’t able to make it to the top after a few tries. That’s my new goal. Lucklly, there are plenty of frozen days coming up.

Snow buffers 100-foot fall at Rocky

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Rescue crews at Rocky Mountain National Park evacuated a climber who fell 100 feet into snow over the weekend. An emergency beacon helped, according to the NPS’s Morning Report.

Here are the details:

Injured Climber Rescued From Black Lake Area

Rangers were notified of the activation of a spot tracker device just after noon last Saturday. Shortly thereafter, they received a 911 call reporting a climbing accident near Black Lake.

Fifty-year-old Jason Brooks was solo climbing (unroped) when he reportedly took a tumbling fall of about 100 feet onto soft snow. The fall was witnessed by visitors who were at Black Lake, which is about five-and-a-half miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Rangers arrived on scene about two-and-a-half hours from the initial call.

Brooks suffered numerous injuries but was ambulatory and with assistance from rangers was able to move down to an area where an air ambulance was able to land. Flight for Life transported him to Medical Center of the Rockies at 4:15 p.m.

Fortunately, weather conditions and the location were conducive to assistance from a helicopter. Teams of Rocky Mountain National Park search and rescue personnel, assisted by Larimer County Search and Rescue and Rocky Mountain Rescue, were preparing for the possibility of a lengthy rescue operation.

Free climbing rescue on Teton

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  Here’ s the latest on a free climbing rescue at Grand Teton National Park:

Critically Injured Climber Rescued from Grand Teton

   Date: August 9, 2014

   A climber sustained life-threatening injuries in an apparent fall while attempting to make a solo summit of the 13,770-foot Grand Teton on Friday morning, Aug. 8. Grand Teton National Park rangers successfully rescued Steve Markusen, 60, of Minneapolis, Minn., from the Grand Teton; however, dense clouds and inclement weather affected the rescue operations throughout much of the afternoon and hindered a more expedient short-haul rescue mission with support by a Teton Interagency contract helicopter.

Free climbing alone—without a climbing harness, rope or helmet—Markusen had reached an elevation of 13,300 feet on the Grand Teton and had reached a point midway between the Friction Pitch and V-Pitch on the upper Exum Ridge route when the accident occurred. Although Markusen was unable to recall exactly what happened, he believed he may have been struck by a rock, which caused him to fall or tumble possibly 100 feet down the steep, granite slabs strewn with loose rock that lie above the Friction Pitch. Markusen incurred extensive traumatic injuries during his fall.


Fatal fall, rescue at Grand Teton

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Climbing Fatality on the Grand Teton & Injured Hiker in Upper Paintbrush Canyon
    Date: July 15, 2014

  A climbing accident on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton resulted in the death of one member of a guided climbing party on Monday morning, July 14 , in Grand Teton National Park, according to the National Park Service.

Mary Bilyeu, 43, of Edmond, Oklahoma was ascending to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton (elevation 13,160 feet) with her climbing partner and a guide from Jackson Hole Mountain Guides when she fell while negotiating a short section above the Exum Gully about 8:30 a.m.

Grand Teton National Park rangers were notified of the accident at 8:40 a.m. Two park rangers on routine patrol at the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton (11,600 feet) climbed to the accident site to begin emergency medical care and prepare the injured climber for a helicopter evacuation. Bilyeu was unresponsive when park rangers arrived on scene and could not be revived. She was pronounced dead in consultation with the park’s medical director and park rangers on scene.

The circumstances leading to this climbing accident are under investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers and no further details are available at this time.


Rescue over Sky Pond

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Rescuers and Lambert traverse narrow steep ledge. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park

Rescuers and Lambert traverse narrow steep ledge. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park

A climber’s beacon and cell phone helped rescuers find him after he slid and became stranded in Rock Mountain National Park. His emergency blanket kept him from freezing. Here are the particulars from the National Park Service.


Further Details Released On Rescue Above Sky Pond

July 1, 2014

On Saturday, June 28, Paul Lambert, 21, from Eagle River, Alaska, climbed Andrews Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park. As he was traversing around a knife’s edge between Powell Peak and Thatchtop, Lambert slipped approximately 5 feet then tumbled and slid an additional 5 feet injuring his arm. He found himself in a location where he was cliffed out; unable to move up or down. Lambert activated a personal locator beacon at 7:45 p.m. Lambert stayed overnight at this location above Sky Pond, at roughly 12,000 feet in elevation in a steep area with scree and loose rock. He had extra clothing and an emergency blanket in addition to other gear.


Sentinel Rock rescue

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  Rescue crews equipped with a helicopter plucked an injured climber from the face of Sentinel Rock last week. The following account was posted on the National Park Service’s Morning Report:


Yosemite National Park Injured Climber Rescued From Sentinel Rock
  June 17, 2014

On Tuesday, June 17th, dispatch received a 911 call from an injured rock climber at the base of the Chounard-Herbert climbing route on Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley, Calif. The climber, a 30-year-old man from Bend, Oregon, said that he’d taken a 35-foot fall on the first pitch of the route, that he’d suffered injuries to his lower extremities, and that he was unable to self-rescue.

A ground response team consisting of Yosemite Search and Rescue team members Everett Phillips, Matt Othmer, Ken Kreis and Buck Yedor was dispatched to the scene. The park’s contract helicopter was also ordered for a reconnaissance flight and potential short haul mission.


Gear from missing climbers found

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Latest from the National Park Service on the recent Mount Rainier tragedy:

Liberty Ridge Search Comes to Tragic Conclusion
Date: May 31, 2014

Searchers located climbing gear and detected signals from avalanche beacons at the top of the Carbon Glacier at 9,500 feet in elevation during an extensive search for six missing climbers today. All indications point toward a fall of 3,300 feet from near the party’s last known location at 12,800 feet on Liberty Ridge. There is no viable chance of survival from such a fall. The Liberty Ridge route is one of the more technical and advanced routes on the mountain.

The area the avalanche beacons were detected on the Carbon Glacier is extremely dangerous due to continuous rock and ice fall. At this point there are no plans to put people on the ground at the site because of the ongoing hazards. In the weeks and months to come the site will be checked periodically by aircraft. As snow melts and conditions change potential opportunities for a helicopter-based recovery will continue to be evaluated. There is no certainty that recovery is possible given the location.

“This accident represents a horrific loss for our guide partners and the families and loved ones of every one of the climbers lost on the mountain” stated Superintendent Randy King. “The climbing community is a small one and a close one and a loss of this magnitude touches many. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragic accident.”

The party, consisting of two skilled climbing guides and four clients, began their climb on Monday, May 26, and was due out on Friday, May 30th. Alpine Ascents last spoke with their guides on Wednesday at 6:00 pm by satellite phone. At that time the party was at 12,800 feet with plans to overnight. Alpine Ascents reported the party missing at 4:30 pm on Friday, May 30th, when they failed to return to the trailhead as expected.

A ground search of the Liberty Ridge route and the Bergschrund was conducted by a team of three Mount Rainier National Park climbing rangers. The US Army Reserve 214th Air Division out of Joint Base Lewis McChord and Northwest Helicopters conducted the air search working with park rangers.


More rescue awards

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Here’s a follow-up the the National Park Service valor awards we wrote about a few days ago. Also earning the award, the highest for park service employees, were two Zion rangers who rescued an upside-down climber in 2010, and Joshua Tree National Park staff who responded to a plane crash in 2011.

Here’s the National Park Service account:

Two Zion National Park Rangers Receive Valor Awards
  May 8, 2014

Springdale, UT- In recognition of their quick actions and willingness to place themselves in positions of danger in an effort to save the life of another, Zion National Park Rangers Craig Thexton and Therese Picard are receiving Department of Interior Valor Awards.

The incident that is being recognized took place on the evening of April 30, 2010, after Zion National Park dispatch received a report that a canyoneer was in distress on the final rappel of Pine Creek. The reporting party stated that a member of his party had lost control while rappelling, was hanging upside down, and was unable to right himself.

The Pine Creek canyoneering route travels through a deep, narrow canyon and requires five rappels. The final rappel is 90 feet long and free hanging. After completing the final rappel, canyoneers must walk and scramble ¾-mile to reach a road. The one-mile long Zion/Mount Carmel tunnel parallels the rappel route and one of the tunnel windows is 200 feet above the anchor for the final rappel.

Rangers immediately recognized the life threatening nature of the situation. Rangers Ray O’Neil, Craig Thexton, Therese Picard, and Dan Hovanec responded to the tunnel window. They rigged a lowering system and a belay line and lowered Thexton and Picard out of the tunnel window 200 feet down to the subject.


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