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Four Denali Climbers Presumed Dead In Avalanche

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avatar Four Denali Climbers Presumed Dead In Avalanche
June 18, 2012 01:03PM
Denali National Park & Preserve (AK)
Four Climbers Presumed Dead In Avalanche

An avalanche on Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress during the early morning hours of June 14th is presumed to have claimed the lives of four Japanese climbers. The five-member Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation (MWAF) expedition was descending Motorcycle Hill near 11,800 feet at 2 a.m. last Thursday morning when an avalanche swept them all downhill. The five were travelling as one rope team, although the rope broke during the avalanche. One team member survived the event. Hitoshi Ogi, 69 of Miyagi Prefecture, was swept into a crevasse and subsequently climbed out with minor injuries. Ogi was unable to locate his teammates in the avalanche debris. Throughout the day, he descended solo to the Kahiltna base camp at 7,200 feet, where he reported the accident shortly after 4 p.m. That evening, two 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 is presumed that the four perished in the accident. Rangers and volunteers began probing the debris zone on Friday to look for signs of the climbers. The four missing climbers are Yoshiaki Kato, 64, Masako Suda, 50, Michiko Suzuki, 56, and Tamao Suzuki, 63. All are from Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. As of June 16th, there were 395 mountaineers attempting routes on Mt. McKinley, the majority on the West Buttress route. Out of the 630 climbers who have already returned from expeditions this season, 234 reported reaching the summit, equating to a 37% summit rate. Substantial snowfall and windy conditions in recent weeks have kept most climbers from reaching the top.
avatar Search For Missing Climbers Suspended
June 19, 2012 11:03AM
Denali National Park & Preserve (AK)
Search For Missing Climbers Suspended

A two-day ground search of the debris path from a fatal avalanche on Mt. McKinley has been suspended after clues were found confirming the likely location of four deceased climbers. Yoshiaki Kato, Masako Suda, Michiko Suzuki, and Tamao Suzuki of the Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation (MWAF) expedition are presumed to have died in the avalanche, while one team member, Hitoshi Ogi, survived the event with a minor hand injury. The fatal avalanche happened at approximately 11,800-feet on the West Buttress and was originally believed to have occurred early on the morning of June 14th. However, NPS rangers have since confirmed with both Ogi and multiple teams on the mountain that the slide occurred during the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 13th. Ogi first reported the event to NPS rangers when he arrived at the Kahiltna Base Camp Thursday afternoon. An aerial hasty search took place on Thursday, followed by an initial four-member NPS ground search on Friday. On Saturday, 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, NPS mountaineering ranger Tucker Chenoweth descended into the same crevasse that the survivor Hitoshi Ogi had fallen into during the avalanche. While probing through the debris roughly 30 meters below the glacier surface, Chenoweth found a broken rope end that matched the MWAF 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. There have been six climbing fatalities on Mt. McKinley this season. Since 1932, a total of 120 climbers have perished on the mountain, 12 due to avalanches. The four avalanche fatalities that occurred this week were the first to occur on the popular West Buttress route.
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