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.


Grizzly attack in Denali

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Clipart of A grizzly bear, but not THE grizzly bear.

Clipart of A grizzly bear, but not THE grizzly bear.

Rangers at Denali National Park are on the hunt for a young grizzly following a series of attacks that culminated in a minor biting. Takeaway lessons from the encounters: Banding together, making noise and throwing rocks works; playing dead is good once the bear attacks but not so much before the attack.

Here’s the National Park Service account:

Visitor Bitten by Grizzly Bear in Denali National Park
July 2, 2016

DENALI PARK, Alaska: A visitor was bitten and scratched by a grizzly bear on Friday evening, July 1 while hiking on the Savage Alpine Trail in Denali National Park and Preserve. Twenty-eight-year-old Fangyuan Zhou was hiking with friends when she encountered a small, asub-adult grizzly bear that bit and scratched her before fellow hikers were able to throw rocks and chase it off.

This incident occurred at approximately 7 pm on Friday evening on the west end of the Savage Alpine Trail. Zhou was hiking with two other people when she encountered the bear ¼-mile from the trailhead. Several other hiking groups were also on the four mile trail. A large group of approximately 10 people had been approached by the bear a short time before Zhou’s encounter, but they were able to scare it off by grouping together, shouting, and waving their arms. This action is exactly what the park encourages hikers to do when the have a close encounter with a bear.


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

Early season climbing death at Denali Pass

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   One person died on Mount McKinley and a second was plucked from the mountain by helicopter during one of the first tragedies of the season last week. Here’s what happened:


Climber Dies on Descent from Denali Pass
Date: May 9, 2014

TALKEETNA, AK: One member of a two-person climbing team perished in an early season climbing fall on Mount McKinley in recent days.The fatal fall likely occurred on May 5, after the climbing parties became separated during a descent from Denali Pass in stormy weather.

Mike Fuchs, 34, of Berlin, Germany and Sylvia Montag, 39, of Tacoma, Washington, began their ascent of the Muldrow Glacier route on April 15. They reached Denali Pass at 18,200-feet elevation on May 3, where they encountered strong winds that forced them to camp for two nights near the Pass.

At 11:00 am on Monday, May 5, Fuchs contacted rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station via satellite phone from the 17,200-foot High Camp on the West Buttress. Fuchs reported that the two had gotten separated as they descended from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot camp. The two were not roped together, nor did they not have radio communications with one another. Fuchs described that both parties were weakened from the multiple nights spent at Denali Pass, and each possessed only partial survival gear. In addition to his personal gear, Fuchs possessed the team’s satellite phone and camp stove, while Montag had the tent, limited food, and her personal gear.

Due to limited visibility and high winds estimated between 40 to 60 mph, Fuchs took shelter in the NPS ‘rescue cache’, a metal storage locker for emergency supplies and equipment at 17,200-feet. Fuchs phoned back the following morning, May 6, and requested a rescue for both himself and for Montag, who he hoped was camped at Denali Pass. The weather on May 6 remained windy with low visibility, and an NPS helicopter rescue was not feasible. Furthermore, a ground rescue was not possible as Fuchs and Montag were two of the earliest Denali climbers of the 2014 season, and at the time were the only climbers above 14,200 feet on the mountain. The only NPS ranger patrol on the mountain was camped at 7,800-feet.


Death in Denali

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From the National Park Service:

Mt. McKinley Climbing Fatality Identified
Date: May 21, 2012
TALKEETNA, Alaska: The mountaineer who died in a climbing fall on Friday, May 18 on Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress is identified as Steffen Machulka of Halle, Germany. Machulka, age 49, fell from 16,200-feet after ascending the ‘headwall’ or ‘fixed lines’ section of the West Buttress route. Machulka, who was not roped to his two climbing partners, fell 1,100 feet down the north face of the buttress to an elevation of 15,100 feet on the Peters Glacier. A witness to the event indicated the climber fell while attempting to recover his backpack which had started to slide downhill.
Soon after the fall was reported, Denali National Park’s A-Star B3 helicopter pilot and two NPS ranger-paramedics flew to the victim and confirmed that Machulka had died of injuries sustained in the fall. Machulka’s body was recovered and flown back to Talkeetna that evening.

At the time of the fall, an NPS mountaineering patrol was ascending the fixed lines shortly behind the 3-member team. The patrol quickly arrived at the fall site and immediately contacted fellow NPS rangers via radio to initiate a helicopter response. At 5:15 pm, Denali National Park’s A-Star B3 helicopter launched from Talkeetna in clear, calm weather conditions. With two ranger-paramedics on board, the helicopter flew to the location of the victim. NPS rangers confirmed that the climber had died of injuries sustained in the fall. The body was recovered and flown back to Talkeetna.
There are currently 336 mountaineers attempting routes on Mt. McKinley. Four climbers have reached the summit this season. This fatal fall is the first serious incident on Mt. McKinley of the 2012 mountaineering season.