Solo Climber Killed In Likely Fall On Denali

A solo climber died while trying to reach the summit of Denali via the West Buttress route shown here/NPS file

A solo climber trying to reach the 20,310-foot-high summit of Denali via the West Buttress route apparently fell to their death during the past week, according to a release from Denali National Park and Preserve.

The unidentified climber was last seen by another climbing party on May 15. On Sunday, after the climber’s family had not heard from them for several days, the park was contacted. The climber had been regularly checking in with family via an InReach communication device. 

Rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station were able to collect satellite location data from the climber’s InReach account and identified their probable location at 17,000 feet on Denali. The InReach data indicated the device had not changed location since Thursday, May 16, suggesting a fall from the Denali Pass traverse took place on that day, the park release said.

Mountaineering rangers patrolling the upper mountain quickly located the climber’s empty tent at the top of the 16,200-foot ridge. Through interviews, rangers also determined the last known sighting of the climber. Another climbing team had witnessed them traversing from the 17,200 feet plateau to Denali Pass at 18,200 feet on Wednesday, May 15.   

On Monday morning as weather on the upper mountain cleared, a National Park Service mountaineering patrol at the 17,200-foot-high camp located the deceased climber by searching the probable fall location using a spotting scope. The team proceeded to the site and confirmed that the climber was dead. The ranger patrol then secured the climber in place and returned to high camp. Recovery efforts will be attempted when weather conditions allow. The identity of the fallen climber will be released once family has been notified.   

Since 1980, at least 14 climbers have died in falls along this treacherous section of the West Buttress route, including the soloist. There are currently 352 climbers on Denali’s West Buttress Route, the majority of whom are much lower on the mountain this early in the climbing season. The climbing season typically begins in early May and ends in early July.

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