Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak at more than 20,000 feet, claimed another life on Friday when a climber fell 1,100 feet to their death, according to Denali National Park officials. It is the first death on the peak in 2012.
A press release from the park reports that a climber in a three-person team had fallen from about 16,200 feet to about 15,100 feet at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, just as the team was reaching the headwall of the West Buttress Route, one of the most popular routes on the mountain. According to the release, a witness said that the climber fell while pursuing a backpack that had begun to slide downhill.
An NPS mountaineering team wasn't far behind the climbing crew that the climber belonged to, and arrived to the fallen climber not long after the accident. At 5:30, about 45 minutes from the time the climber fell, a helicopter was launched from Talkeetna with two paramedics aboard, but the NPS confirmed that the climber had died from injuries sustained in the fall.
The park did not confirm the identity or gender of the climber pending notification of next of kin, but they were able to airlift the body from the mountain and return it to Talkeenta.
In the image below, the black line denotes the West Buttress route, and the red line denotes the path of the climber's fall. Photo by B. Washburn, National Park Service.