Weather hampers efforts to rescue stranded Denali climbers for third day

Friday update: One of the two Malaysian climbers stranded near Denali’s summit was rescued by helicopter early Friday, and the other was reported to have died two days earlier, park officials say.

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Thursday story below.


Poor weather on Thursday prevented park rangers from reaching two hypothermic and frostbitten climbers near the summit of Denali for a third day, the National Park Service said.

The two Malaysian climbers, ages 36 and 47, have been sheltering in a crude snow cave at 19,600 feet since Tuesday night, Denali National Park and Preserve officials said in a statement Thursday. The men became exhausted and hypothermic after reaching the mountain’s 20,310-foot summit and called for help around 1 a.m. Tuesday because they were unable to descend, the park service said.

Clouds and high winds prevented rescuers from reaching the area on Tuesday and Wednesday.


Park rangers said they received five brief messages in rapid succession around 10 p.m. Wednesday from the pair. The climbers confirmed their location, asked for help, and told rangers their InReach device was nearly out of battery, the park service said.

A ground crew of rangers and mountaineering volunteers were on standby at a high camp at 17,200 feet Thursday and planned to move higher on the mountain as winds dissipated, the park service said. A helicopter pilot also remained on standby.

A 48-year-old member of the team on Tuesday made it to the high camp and was evacuated in serious condition, the park service said.

The park’s high-altitude helicopter was unable to reach the area Tuesday because of clouds, officials said. The crew of an Alaska Air National Guard plane spotted the climbers that morning, the park service said.

On Tuesday, an experienced guide provided care to the two stranded climbers, who are in a flat area known as the Football Field, before descending for safety as clouds returned, the park service said.

Two people have died in the park during the current climbing season, which generally begins in May and ends in early July. A Japanese solo climber died in a fall on Denali this month and a veteran forest ranger fell and died on Mount Johnson in April.