2012 Incidents

June 17, 2012 Patient Evacuation

An avalanche on Mt. McKinley's West Buttress during the early morning hours of June 13, 2012 has claimed the lives of four climbers. There were five expedition members descending Motorcycle Hill near 11,800-feet at 2:00 am Wednesday morning when an avalanche swept them all downhill.   read more...

The five were travelling as one rope team, although the rope broke during the avalanche. One team member survived the event, and was swept into a crevasse and subsequently climbed out with minor injuries. The climber was unable to locate his teammates in the avalanche debris. Throughout the day, the subject descended solo to the Kahiltna Basecamp at 7,200 feet, where he reported the accident shortly after 4:00 pm June 14th.

The evening of June 14th, two NPS rangers flew to the avalanche path in the park's A-Star B3 helicopter to conduct an aerial hasty search. There was no sign of the missing climbers or their gear in the avalanche debris. In light of the time elapsed, it was presumed that the four perished in the accident. NPS rangers and volunteers began probing the debris zone on Friday to look for signs of the climbers.

On Saturday, June 16, an expanded 10-person ground crew consisting of NPS rangers, volunteer patrol members, a dog handler, and a trained search and rescue dog probed and further investigated the debris zone. During the search, a NPS mountaineering ranger descended into the same crevasse that the survivor had fallen into during the avalanche. While probing through the debris roughly 30 meters below the glacier surface, the ranger found a broken rope end that matched the team's rope. He began to dig further, but encountered heavily compacted ice and snow debris. Due to the danger of ice fall within the crevasse, it was decided to permanently suspend the recovery efforts.

These four avalanche fatalities were the first to occur on the popular West Buttress route. Since 1932, a total of 120 climbers have perished on the mountain, 12 due to avalanches.

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May 24, 2012

A 36-year-old man died from injuries incurred in a fall while descending Mt. McKinley the afternoon of Wednesday, May 23. The subject was skiing down the 40- to 45-degree slope known as the 'Orient Express' with two teammates when he fell from an elevation of 17,800 feet and was unable to self-arrest. He tumbled through snow, ice, and rocks, coming to a stop in a crevasse at 15,850 feet.   read more...

While one of his teammates continued down to the NPS ranger camp at 14,200 feet for rescue assistance, the other teammate rappelled into the crevasse with the help of a nearby team. They determined that the subject was likely deceased.

An NPS response team arrived on scene approximately one hour later, and a mountaineering ranger was lowered 60 feet into the crevasse by his team of 3 volunteer rangers. After confirming that the man was deceased, the NPS patrol members hauled both the ranger and the victim out to the glacier surface. Soon after, the climber's body was evacuated via a long line operation by the park's A-Star B3 helicopter to the Kahiltna Basecamp, then on to Talkeetna.

This accident is the second fatal fall on Mt. McKinley during the 2012 climbing season. Since 1972, 16 fatalities have occurred during descents of the Orient Express.  <<Collapse text>>

May 19,2012 Patient Evacuation

Denali National Park and Preserve mountaineering rangers were notified at 4:30 pm on Friday, May 18 that a member of a three-person climbing team had fallen from approximately 16,200-feet on Mt. McKinley's West Buttress route.   read more...

The un-roped team had just reached the top of the 'headwall' or 'fixed lines' section of the West Buttress route when one climber 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 a backpack that had started to slide downhill.

At the time of the fall, an NPS mountaineering ranger and volunteer patrol members were 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; and the subject was flown back to Talkeetna.  <<Collapse text>>