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News / Nation & World

1 Malaysian climber dead, 1 rescued near the top of Denali, North America’s tallest mountain

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press
Published: May 31, 2024, 2:49pm

JUNEAU, Alaska — A climber from Malaysia who was stranded for three days near the top of North America’s tallest mountain following a summit push was rescued Friday, but his partner was dead, officials said. A third member of their team had been rescued this week after descending lower on Denali in Alaska.

After days of cloudy, windy conditions, personnel from Denali National Park and Preserve on Friday morning were able to rescue the surviving climber at 19,600 feet (5,974 meters), where he and his partner had been holed up in a snow cave since late Tuesday, according to the park.

Late Thursday, the park’s high-altitude helicopter pilot was able to drop a bag with survival gear near the snow cave and saw a climber waving at him, but strong winds prevented a rescue at that time, the park said.

It was not clear to rescuers whether one or both of the climbers was alive until Friday morning’s rescue, park spokesperson Paul Ollig said by email. He noted in part limited communications with the climbers after rangers first received an SOS from the three-member team at 1 a.m. Tuesday indicating they were hypothermic and unable to descend after reaching Denali’s 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) summit.

Officials are still gathering information about what happened, and the language barrier has been challenging, Ollig said. The climbers are from Malaysia.

“All we know right now is that the deceased climber died approximately two days ago,” Ollig said by email.

The climber rescued Friday was medevaced to an Anchorage hospital for additional care and “was in surprisingly strong condition, walking on his own even, considering what he endured,” Ollig said, adding that additional information about him and the other survivor would not be released by the park.

Rangers planned to recover the body of the climber who died later.

The climbers were part of a three-person team of men who all listed in their climbing histories experience on “multiple high elevation international peaks,” Ollig has said. Two had previous experience on Denali, he said.

The third climber, previously identified as a 48-year-old, was rescued Tuesday night after descending to a 17,200-foot (5,243-meter) camp. He was described by the park as having severe frostbite and hypothermia.

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