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Czech mountaineer dies while descending Denali

  • Author: Michelle Theriault Boots
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published May 29, 2016

Denali is lit by the rising sun and framed by spruce trees in this view from the Parks Highway on Sept. 22, 2014. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

A Czech mountaineer died Saturday evening while descending Denali, the National Park Service said Sunday.

Mountaineer Pavel Michut, 45, was at an elevation of 17,000 feet when he tumbled roughly 1,500 feet while skiing the Messner Couloir. He is the only mountaineer to die on Denali so far this year. 

The Messner Couloir is a steep gully that connects a basin at 14,000 feet and the upper mountain at 19,000 feet. On Saturday evening, it was "wind-scoured and hard-packed" after days of extreme winds, the Park Service reported.

"The event was witnessed by multiple parties at the 14,200-foot camp on Denali," a news release from the park said. "A nearby climbing team was on scene within 10 minutes and determined that the skier had died of multiple traumatic injuries suffered in the fall."

Michut, from the Czech Republic village of Hutisko-Solanec, was traveling with one other mountaineer at the time of the fall. 

It was not clear whether he had previously reached the summit or not.

Michut's body will be recovered from the site of the fall and transported to the State Medical Examiner Office when weather conditions allow, said Maureen Gualtieri, spokesperson for Denali National Park and Preserve.

Michut is the only mountaineer to have died on Denali this season, she said, though a man died hiking near the Savage River Trail in the park's northern area earlier in May.

The last week of May and first of June are the busiest times for mountaineering expeditions trying to reach Denali's summit, according to park officials. As of Sunday there were 457 people on the mountain, said Gualtieri.

Fierce winds have kept many from reaching the top, though: Only 19 percent of parties that have attempted to climb the mountain this season have reached the summit. 

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