Denali National Park officials say 2 missing men likely fell while climbing

A snowy mountain peak
National Park Service officials shot this photo of the West Ridge of Moose’s Tooth during a search for two missing climbers from a high-altitude helicopter on Sunday. The red box indicates the rough location of boot tracks that led into a small avalanche. (National Park Service photo)

A search is underway for two climbers in Denali National Park and Preserve whose tracks, rangers say, led into the path of an avalanche.

The park service says the two men likely fell while climbing high on the west ridge route of Moose’s Tooth on Friday. The 10,335-foot peak is about 50 miles north of Talkeetna. 

The park service identified the climbers as Eli Michel, 34, of Columbia City, Indiana, and Nafiun Awal, 32, of Seattle. They were last heard from around 5 a.m. Friday when they checked in with a friend through a satellite communication device. They said they planned to climb the west ridge. The two men never checked in again.

National park rangers based in Talkeetna searched the area on Sunday. They found the pair’s unattended tent, ski tracks that led to the base of the route where they switched to boots and crampons, and finally boot tracks leading into a recent avalanche.

A search was also conducted by helicopter on Sunday and Monday. Several pieces of the climber’s equipment were spotted along the 3,200-foot fall line, including two ice axes and a climbing helmet.

The park service says the aerial search will continue as weather allows. There was low visibility and snowfall in the area Tuesday.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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