Climber killed, another injured in 1,000-foot fall in Denali National Park

A 52-year-old climber from New York was killed and her climbing partner was seriously injured when the pair fell while attempting a route on a peak in Denali National Park and Preserve on Thursday night, the National Park Service said.

Robbi Mecus of Keene Valley, New York, and her climbing partner, a 30-year-old woman from California, were on Mount Johnson — an 8,400-foot peak located in the park’s Ruth Gorge — when they fell about 1,000 feet, the park service said in an update Saturday. The fall killed Mecus while her partner sustained serious injuries, the park service said.

The roped climbers had been ascending a route on Mount Johnson’s southeast face called “the Escalator,” known for being steep and technical and involving a mix of rock, ice and snow, the park service said.

According to the park service, another climbing party on the peak saw the pair fall and notified park rangers around 10:45 p.m. Thursday. That climbing party descended to where the victims had fallen and confirmed one of them had died, according to a park service statement Friday.

“The responders dug a snow cave and attended to the surviving climber’s injuries throughout the night,” the park service said in the Friday statement.

A high-altitude helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers flew from Talkeetna to the site Friday morning, and one ranger was short-hauled via long line to where the climbers were waiting. The ranger and the injured climber were hauled out to a staging area before loading into the helicopter to return to Talkeetna, where the climber was then flown to a hospital in Anchorage “for advanced medical care,” the park service said.

Two rangers returned to the site of the accident later Friday morning to recover the climber who died, but had to turn back due to deteriorating weather conditions, according to the park service.


Rangers returned to the accident site around 8 a.m. Saturday and were able to recover Mecus’ body, the park service said in its update.

“We are grateful for the rescue efforts of Denali mountaineering rangers and the two good Samaritans on Mt. Johnson who helped save a fellow climber’s life,” Brooke Merrell, Denali National Park superintendent, said in the Saturday update.

Mecus, a 25-year New York State Forest Ranger working in the Adirondacks, had aided in hundreds of searches and rescues throughout her career and was a leader and role model within her community, North Country Public Radio reported.

“We extend our thoughts and condolences to the friends and family of Robbi Mecus,” Merrell said in the statement.

Paul Ollig, a Denali National Park spokesperson, said the accident marked the first fatality of the park’s 2024 climbing season.