Outdoors/Adventure

Searchers find body of solo Denali climber below pass

Update, 5:50 p.m. Friday: Searchers found the body of a missing solo climber on Denali on Friday morning during a third day of aerial search efforts, Denali National Park and Preserve officials said.

Matthias Rimml, a 35-year-old mountain guide from Austria, was last heard from on Saturday, when he’d called a friend using a satellite phone on the West Buttress around 18,000 feet, according to park officials.

Spotters in the National Park Service’s high-altitude helicopter saw his body “in the fall zone below Denali Pass,” park officials said in a statement Friday evening.

“Rimml likely fell on the steep traverse between Denali Pass at 18,200 feet and the 17,200-foot plateau, a notoriously treacherous stretch of the West Buttress route,” park officials said. ”Thirteen climbers, including Rimml, have died in falls along this traverse, the majority occurring on the descent.”

Attempts to recover Rimml’s body won’t begin until a ranger patrol has acclimated to the high altitude and can do so safely, park officials said.

Original story:

Rangers are searching for a solo climber on Denali after a friend he’d been contacting regularly hadn’t heard from him in several days.

Matthias Rimml — who was the first registered climber on the mountain this season — left the 7,200-foot Kahiltna Basecamp on April 27, Denali National Park and Preserve officials said in a statement Thursday. He planned to complete the climb in just five days.

The 35-year-old mountain guide from Austria had 10 days’ worth of food and fuel and planned to move quickly with lighter gear, park officials said.

While Rimml isn’t considered overdue because of the amount of provisions he was carrying, a friend who was receiving regular check-in calls from Rimml hadn’t had contact with the climber in several days, became worried and reached out to mountaineering rangers Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

Rimml is the only person on the upper mountain: Park officials said all other climbing teams and the first ranger patrol remain camped below 14,000 feet at this point early in the season.

Rimml’s last known satellite phone call occurred around 2 p.m. Saturday, according to park officials. Rimml told his friend he was just below Denali Pass, located at 18,200 feet on the popular West Buttress route. He reported being tired but not in distress, park officials said.

Searchers spotted his tent site at 14,000 feet Wednesday but saw no signs of recent activity, and a mountaineering ranger and National Park Service helicopter pilot flew along the cloud-obscured route and didn’t see signs of him, park officials said. On Thursday, as weather improved, the Park Service helicopter was able to land at 14,000 feet and rangers confirmed he hadn’t returned to camp, according to officials.

Clouds have prevented aerial searchers from flying above 17,200 feet, and daytime highs have ranged between minus 30 degrees and minus 25, park officials said. Aerial search efforts will continue on the upper mountain as the weather allows, officials said.

[On a Denali glacier, setting up base camp as the climbing season rebounds from pandemic lull]

On the website for his guide business, Rimml said he always has been close to mountains and nature.

He trained as a carpenter after receiving his high school diploma. In 2015, after he completed military service, Rimml switched to being a freelance ski instructor in Austria and outside Europe.

He became a professional mountain guide in 2015, the fourth generation of his family to do so, his biography states. His specialty is long, technically difficult combined tours.

Material from Associated Press reporter Mark Thiessen was used in this report.

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