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Re: Climber Dies On Mount McKinley

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avatar Climber Dies On Mount McKinley
May 12, 2014 02:52PM
One member of a two-person climbing team perished last week in an early season climbing fall on Mt. McKinley. The fatal fall likely occurred on May 5th after the two climbers 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 15th. They reached Denali Pass at 18,200 feet on May 3rd, where they encountered strong winds that forced them to camp for two nights.

At 11 a.m. on Monday, May 5th, Fuchs contacted rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station via satellite phone from the 17,200-foot High Camp on the West Buttress. He reported that the two had gotten separated as they descended from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot camp. They were not roped together, nor did they have radio communications with one another. Fuchs said they’d both been weakened by the several nights spent at Denali Pass, and that each possessed only partial survival gear. In addition to his personal gear, Fuchs had their 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 an NPS rescue cache, a metal storage locker for emergency supplies and equipment at 17,200 feet. He phoned back the following morning and asked for a rescue for both himself and Montag, who he hoped was camped at Denali Pass. The weather that day 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.

On Wednesday morning, Fuchs called and reported slightly calmer winds and clear skies at 17,200 feet. He also reported that he had still not seen his climbing partner descending Denali Pass. Clouds and poor visibility below his altitude hampered a rescue that day, though a Hercules C-130 from the 210th Rescue Squadron was launched at noon by the Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage to provide aerial reconnaissance and weather reports. The C-130 crew reported no sighting of Montag near Denali Pass.

Taking advantage of a clearing trend Wednesday evening, a mountaineering ranger and pilot flew to the pas in Denali’s high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter, with the C-130 flying as a cover aircraft. After several passes of the area, the helicopter crew spotted Montag’s body 800 to 1,000 feet below the Denali Pass traverse on the Peters Glacier. Fuchs was observed by the flight crew standing near his camp at 17,200 feet.

The NPS helicopter returned to the Kahiltna Basecamp at 7,200-feet to drop off the mountaineering ranger. Pilot Andy Hermansky then flew back to the 17,200-foot camp to evacuate Fuchs using a rescue basket attached to a shorthaul line under the helicopter. Fuchs was flown to the Kahiltna Basecamp for a medical assessment, then evacuated to Talkeetna State Airport and released.

Sylvia Montag’s body will be recovered when an NPS ground team reaches the 17,200 foot camp.
Re: Climber Dies On Mount McKinley
May 12, 2014 03:11PM
Quote
eeek
They were not roped together, nor did they have radio communications with one another. Fuchs said they’d both been weakened by the several nights spent at Denali Pass, and that each possessed only partial survival gear. In addition to his personal gear, Fuchs had their satellite phone and camp stove, while Montag had the tent, limited food, and her personal gear.

Gotta wonder about that....



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