Updated: June 28, 2011
It’s only June 1 and much of the climbing news has been on the deadly accidents on Mount McKinley/Denali in the Alaska Range. I don’t ordinarily cover accidents and deaths in our sport on this the Suburban Mountaineer — it’s sadness is something I prefer to casually avoid– but this has been difficult to ignore with any forced grace.
- May 12, 2011 — Beat Niederer (33) of Switzerland died around 18,000 ft. of unknown causes after a fall.
- May 16, 2011 — Luciano Colombo (67) of Italy died from injuries in a 1,000-foot fall between Denali Pass and the 17,200 ft. High Camp.
- May 25, 2011 — Alpine Ascents International Guide Suzanne Allen (34) Seattle, Washington and one of her clients, Peter Bullard (45) of China passed away as the result of an unwitnessed fall along Denali Pass around 18,000 ft.
- June 10, 2011 — Alaskan resident Brian Young (52) died of “apparent cardiac arrest” after going to sleep in the 17,200 ft. High Camp. It has been historically rare for Alaskans to perish on the mountain.
It should be noted that accidents elsewhere in Denali National Park also occurred in the same span of time: Two other deaths occurred between May 21 and May 23, 2011 when they were over due. Jiro Kurihara (33) of Canmore, Alberta and Junya Shiraishi (28) of Sapporo, Japan were attempting a new route on the west face of Mt. Frances when they died in an avalanche.
According to the National Park Service, “As of the morning of May 14, there were 282 climbers attempting Mt. McKinley. Eight summits have been recorded thus far. A total of 1,029 climbers are registered to climb during the 2011 season.”
Others have been injured and many lives have been disrupted from these events, no doubt. Events like this remind me that “it’s okay, just Denali,” isn’t true. It’s Denali. Be careful!
I sincerely hope that what remains of the climbing season goes smoothly for all the climbers; the rate of incidents was high this season, though tragedy hits regularly every year.
On the upside, it’s been 10 years since Erik Weihenmayer became the first person to summit Mount Everest in May 2001. Congrats to Erik for the inspiration that he has given to so many mountaineers and non-mountaineers alike!
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