2 climbers stranded for days in snow cave near Denali summit

a mountain
A photograph of Denali, with elevations marked for its summit and the “Football Field” at which two summited Malaysian climbers became stranded during a Tuesday, May 28, 2024 descent. (From Denali National Park)

Update, 8 a.m. Friday:

Aerial efforts to reach two climbers stranded near Denali’s summit were starting to resume early Friday.

Denali National Park and Preserve spokesman Paul Ollig said a crew was in the air at about 6 a.m. Friday trying to visually locate the climbers. The crew was able to drop an emergency bag in the climbers’ vicinity.

Original story:

Bad weather continues to thwart attempts to rescue two hypothermic climbers stranded near Denali’s summit since Tuesday, according to park officials.

A Denali National Park and Preserve helicopter remained grounded at midday Thursday by heavy cloud cover on North America’s tallest peak. Meanwhile, the men have been bivouacking in a “crude snow cave” since late Tuesday night, after a summit push left them exhausted and hypothermic, according to a park statement.

The park has identified the climbers as three men from Malaysia. They had used a InReach satellite device at 1 a.m. Tuesday to report from the 20,310-foot summit that they were hypothermic and unable to descend. They later reached an area called the “Football Field” at an elevation of 19,600 feet.

Park officials say one of the men, a 48-year-old climber, was able to descend to the 17,200-foot high camp on Tuesday and was evacuated in serious condition that night.

The other two climbers, ages 36 and 47, have been holed up in the snow cave.

Park officials said five brief inReach messages came through from the men Wednesday night “in rapid succession.” The messages confirmed their location and requested help. 

“The last message from the men indicated their InReach battery was almost completely depleted,” said the park statement.

Clouds and high winds had also precluded attempts overnight Wednesday to reach the climbers, said park spokesman Paul Ollig. 

A ground crew of rangers and volunteer mountaineers was staged at the mountain’s high camp, according to park officials, but conditions overnight kept the crew from ascending any higher. Both the ground crew and the park’s high-altitude helicopter were on standby as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday, waiting for conditions to improve.

a portrait of a man outside

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him atcklint@alaskapublic.org.Read more about Chrishere.

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