Missing Austrian climber found dead on Mt McKinley

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2011 4:28 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An Austrian climber missing for days on Mount McKinley has been found dead, apparently killed in a 4,000-foot fall, the National Park Service said on Friday.

Juergen Kanzian's body was found on Thursday night at the 15,300-foot elevation, at the base of a steep snow and rock gully known as the "Orient Express," the Park Service said.

His backpack and skis were left at a rock outcropping at the 19,000-foot level of the mountain, the Park Service said.

Searchers on a helicopter spotted the body and the climber's gear, the Park Service said.

They were unable to land, but confirmed that Kanzian was dead, said Maureen McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Denali National Park.

A team was planning to ascend Friday to the site and bring the body to a camp at 14,200-foot level so that it can be flown off the mountain, McLaughlin said.

Kanzian, a 41-year-old mountaineering guide in the Alps, had last been seen on Monday night, ascending at the 18,000-foot level.

He told other climbers he intended to ski back down after reaching McKinley's 20,320-foot summit, the Park Service said. When he failed to return to his high-altitude campsite Tuesday night, other climbers alerted park rangers.

It is unclear how Kanzian fell, McLaughlin said.

"We'll probably never know the answer to that," she said. "I supposed it's possible he got a little bit off the route, the actual trail, because there was quite a lot of new-fallen snow."

Kanzian was the sixth climber to die this season on McKinley, North America's tallest peak, and three other climbers have died on nearby peaks in Denali National Park.

It is one of the deadliest climbing seasons in recent history, according to park records. The most fatalities were recorded in 1992, when 11 people died on McKinley and two others on associated peaks in the park.

The McKinley climbing season generally runs from late April to mid-July, and the mountain usually attracts 1,200 to 1,300 climbers during that period. There were still about 250 climbers on mountain as of Friday, McLaughlin said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)