Alaska News

Climber was filming others near Alaska’s Mount Hunter when he disappeared into a crevasse

A Japanese man presumed dead after falling into a deep crevasse on the Kahiltna Glacier in Denali National Park late Tuesday was part of a small group filming two climbers on Mount Hunter, a park spokeswoman said Thursday.

The 43-year-old climber from Kanagawa, Japan, was unroped when he fell through a weak ice bridge on the glacier, the park service wrote in a statement.

He is not being publicly identified at the request of the family, Denali National Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said.

The climber was an experienced mountaineer who had previously been on a Denali expedition, according to Gualtieri.

He arrived in the park on May 12 with four others, a group all from Japan that expected to stay for two weeks, she said. At some point, they split into two smaller groups and two climbers began ascending Mount Hunter while the other three camped at the Kahiltna Basecamp and filmed them.

The Japanese climber fell into a crevasse at about 8,000 feet near the main trail to the mountain, Gualtieri said.

One of his companions stayed in the area while the other skied down the glacier to the base camp for help, she said. The group had communication devices on the mountain, Gualtieri said, but it wasn’t immediately clear why they weren’t used to call for help. It took about an hour for the skier to reach the camp and then National Park Service patrol members skied back to the area.

A ranger rappelled as far into the crevasse as possible, according to the Park Service, and confirmed the ice bridge collapse had filled the area “with a large volume of snow and ice approximately 80 feet below the glacier surface.”

“The climber is presumed dead based on the volume of ice, the distance of the fall, and the duration of the burial,” the Park Service said in a statement Wednesday.

Park officials were revisiting the scene of the accident Thursday to assess whether the body can be safely recovered, Gualtieri said.

There were 344 climbers on Denali on Thursday as the park entered the busy season for popular routes there and on Mount Foraker, Gualtieri said. The season is winding down elsewhere in the park for lower peaks, and Gualtieri said there were 32 climbers Thursday on other backcountry expeditions.

This is the second climber death this year in Denali National Park. Searchers found the body of a solo climber from Austria below Denali Pass earlier this month. Matthias Rimml was the first registered climber on Denali this season and was believed to have fallen on a treacherous stretch of the popular West Buttress route.

Rimml’s body was recovered Tuesday in a long-line helicopter operation, according to the park service.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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