Mountaineer Dies In Fall In Denali National Park And Preserve

The “Escalator” route on Mount Johnson. The X indicates the approximate location of the rescue of the surviving climbing partner/NPS, J. Kayes

Editor’s note: This updates with the name of the victim and recovery of her body.

The body of a mountaineer who died in a fall of roughly 1,000 feet earlier this week was recovered Saturday by Denali National Park and Preserve climbing rangers, while a second climber injured in the accident remained hospitalized in Anchorage, Alaska.

Robbi Mecus, 52 of Keene Valley, New York, was killed Thursday while her companion, a 30-year-old woman from California, was seriously injured, park staff said in a release Saturday.

The two, roped together during a technical climb up the southeast ridge of 8,400-foot Mount Johnson in the park’s Ruth Gorge, fell Thursday evening from “the Escalator” route, according to the park. The approximately 5,000-foot-route requires navigating a mix of steep rock, ice, and snow, a park release said.

Another climbing party witnessed the fall and contacted the Alaska Regional Communication Center about 10:45 p.m. local time Thursday. “The reporting party then descended to the accident victims and confirmed one climber had died in the fall. The responders dug a snow cave and attended to the surviving climber’s injuries throughout the night,” the release said.

On Friday morning the park’s high altitude rescue helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers made an initial reconnaissance of the accident zone and one of the rangers was short-hauled via long line to the awaiting climbers. Together, the ranger and the injured climber were short-hauled out to a flat glacier staging area, and then loaded into the helicopter for the flight to Talkeetna, the park reported. The patient was transferred to a LifeMed air ambulance at the Talkeetna State Airport for further care.

Later Friday the park helicopter and two rangers returned to the accident site to recover Mecus’s body but were turned back due to deteriorating weather and increasing cloud cover. Weather allowed the recovery Saturday morning.

“We are grateful for the rescue efforts of Denali mountaineering rangers and the two good Samaritans on Mt. Johnson who helped save a fellow climber’s life.  We extend our thoughts and condolences to the friends and family of Robbi Mecus,” said Denali Superintendent Brooke Merrell.
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