Rescue operation underway for two climbers with hypothermia on Denali, North America’s highest mountain

Two climbers are currently awaiting rescue near the summit of Denali, the highest peak in North America. They made the request for assistance after successfully reaching the summit, joining the busy crowd of climbers during this popular time of the mountaineering season. This information was confirmed by officials at Denali National Park and Preserve.

The condition of the climbers was not immediately known, but the third climber was rescued late Tuesday. According to park spokesperson Paul Ollig, all three climbers had previous experience on high-elevation international peaks and two of them had prior history on Denali.

At 1 a.m. on Tuesday, park rangers received an urgent distress signal from the trio. The climbers had successfully reached the summit at an impressive altitude of 20,310 feet (6,190 meters), but were now facing the dangerous effects of hypothermia and were unable to make their way back down.

They continued to stay in touch until approximately 3:30 a.m., when they exchanged text messages outlining their intentions to descend to a flat area called the “Football Field” at an elevation of around 19,600 feet (5,974 meters), according to the park service’s statement.

After the climbers failed to respond, the Rangers were unable to establish further contact with them. Additionally, the satellite communication device they were using remained in the same location. Unfortunately, due to the presence of cloud cover, the park’s high-altitude helicopter was unable to fly to Denali from Talkeetna, which is approximately 50 miles away. As a result, the park sought assistance from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. In response, the Alaska Air National Guard dispatched an HC-130J airplane from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage to search for the climbers.

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Two climbers were found at the altitude of 19,000 to 20,000 feet (5,791 to 6,096 meters) on the mountain before noon on Tuesday. A climbing guide spotted the third climber at approximately 18,600 feet (5,669 meters).

The weather improved on Tuesday evening, allowing the high-altitude helicopter to successfully land at a camp for climbers situated at an elevation of 14,200 feet (4,328 meters).

National Park Service mountaineering patrol rangers were providing treatment to two climbers from another expedition who had frostbite. The climbers were later evacuated to Talkeetna by the helicopter crew.

On Tuesday night, a third rescue mission was launched to reach the three climbers who had sent a distress message. At that time, one of the climbers had already descended to a high camp situated at an altitude of 17,200 feet (5,243 meters), and was grappling with severe frostbite and hypothermia, as reported by the park authorities. The climber received assistance from a guided party until a team from the park service arrived. Eventually, the climber was airlifted from the mountain and subsequently transported for medical treatment from Talkeetna.

An experienced expedition guide offered assistance to the other two climbers at the “Football Field” on the upper mountain. However, due to the return of clouds, the guide had to descend to the high camp at 17,200 feet (5,243 meters) for safety reasons, according to the park service.

Rescuers were unable to reach the two climbers on Wednesday due to clouds and windy conditions. Both aircraft and mountain ascent were hindered by these adverse conditions. Park service personnel had to wait for improved weather conditions before making any further rescue attempts.

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According to Ollig, the park spokesperson, it is uncertain how much survival equipment the two climbers have, but it is likely that they have minimal gear.

According to the expert, teams usually opt for lighter gear and limited survival equipment on summit days in order to increase their speed and efficiency.

While this rescue operation is undoubtedly dramatic, it is not necessarily uncommon.

Currently, there are 506 climbers embarking on the challenge of summiting Denali. The Memorial Day weekend marks the commencement of the busiest two weeks of the climbing season, according to the park service.

A total of 117 climbers have made their way up the mountain, with 17 of them successfully reaching the summit.

Located approximately 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Anchorage, Denali National Park and Preserve offers a breathtaking natural experience.

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