Solo Climber Dies on ‘Treacherous’ Section of Denali

A climber was found dead Monday after falling from the upper reaches of North America’s highest mountain.

Denali National Park and Preserve rangers located the deceased climber on Monday after family members reported them missing, Alaska officials said. The climber was attempting a solo ascent of Denali’s 6,190m summit, and kept in touch with family through an inReach communication device.

But on Sunday, a concerned family member said that they hadn’t heard from the climber in several days. After locating the climber’s empty tent at the top of the 4,940m ridge, rangers conducted interviews to determine the last known sighting.

A climbing team had witnessed the soloist traversing from a 5,240m-plateau to Denali Pass at 5,550m on Wednesday, May 15, according to a news release.

That’s a dangerous area of the mountain even for experienced climbers, said Denali mountain guide and ExplorersWeb gear editor Chelsey Cook. Since 1980, at least 14 climbers have died in falls on this “treacherous section” of Denali’s West Buttress route, park officials said.

“It’s exposed and generally very icy,” Cook said. “If you slip, you’re likely going for a very long ride.”

West Buttress Route of Denali

The upper portion of the West Buttress Route of Denali, showing the approximate location of the incident. Photo: National Parks Service


Fatal fall

Rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station also collected satellite location data from the climber’s inReach account, according to a news release. That led them to a probable location of about 5,200m on Denali’s West Buttress. Since the device location hadn’t changed since May 16, it’s likely the climber fell on that day, officials said.

A patrol from the National Park Service discovered the climber’s body on Monday using a spotting scope. The rangers secured the climber’s body in place, and plan to return for body recovery when weather conditions improve.

The climber’s name will be released once the family has been notified.

Meanwhile, another 352 climbers are currently on the same route, according to park officials. However, most of them are much lower on the mountain this early in the climbing season, which typically begins in early May and ends in early July.


The original version of this story appeared on GearJunkie.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.