Search underway for 2 climbers in Denali National Park last heard from Friday

A search is underway for two climbers missing in Denali National Park and Preserve in the area of the Moose’s Tooth, where rangers say they found tracks leading into a small avalanche.

The climbers checked in with a friend at 5 a.m. Friday using a satellite device and said they intended to climb the West Ridge route of the 10,300-foot peak located within the park’s Ruth Gorge, according to a release from park officials Monday. When the friend hadn’t heard from the climbers by Sunday, they notified park rangers.

The National Park Service identified the climbers as Eli Michel, 34, of Columbia City, Indiana, and 32-year-old Seattle resident Nafiun Awal.

Both aerial and ground searches initiated Sunday revealed no sign of the two climbers, but rangers did find their unattended tent as well as ski tracks heading to the base of the route, the release said. “At that point, rangers located the team’s cache of skis where they had switched to crampons for the ascent. Boot tracks then continue high on the West Ridge into a recent small slab avalanche.”

Park officials said no additional tracks were found.

On Monday, rangers were conducting an aerial search on the avalanche runout zone, which the release described as heavily crevassed. Officials said they were limiting any ground search due to the danger of crevasses and overhead hazards. A park spokesperson on Monday described the dangers as rockfall, ice, or additional avalanche activity.

Ruth Gorge is a popular alpine climbing destination lined with steep walls about 10 miles long and just over a mile wide.