Friday, June 5, 2009

Climber Remains found through Photoanalysis

AAI just received the following email from Denali National Park:

Although there is still no clue to the whereabouts of missing climber Dr. Gerald Myers, high resolution images collected during the recent search did reveal the remains of two young Japanese climbers who disappeared after an attempt of the Cassin Ridge in May 2008.

On Sunday, May 24, 2009, in the process of analyzing new photos from the upper west face of Mt. McKinley, rangers observed what appeared to be two partially buried figures connected by a rope in a steep rocky area west of the Cassin Ridge at 19,800-feet. On the afternoon following the photo discovery, the park’s contracted A-Star B3 helicopter was able to hover close enough to the site for a NPS mountaineering ranger to confirm the presence of two frozen figures. Based on their location, clothing, and rope color, NPS mountaineering rangers identified the bodies as 27-year-old Tatsuro Yamada and 24-year-old Yuto Inoue. The National Park Service and the Japanese Consulate in Anchorage notified the next of kin. Family and friends representing both the Yamada and Inoue families came to Talkeetna this week to meet with mountaineering ranger staff.

Yamada and Inoue, both from the Tokyo, Japan area, were expected to return from a climb of the Cassin Ridge on May 22, 2008. During the subsequent week, National Park Service observers aerially searched the mountain for a combined total of 33 hours of helicopter and fixed wing flight time. Furthermore, thousands of photos were taken of the vast search zone. Although numerous clues were discovered using the images, including extensive tracks and a probable campsite, the two men were not found.

During the 2008 Cassin search, which was the first time Denali National Park rangers used the photographic approach to search a vast land area, the cameras used were effective in locating tracks and general disturbances in open snow fields. However, finding definitive clues in rocky and shadowy terrain proved difficult. A more advanced camera and higher powered lens were used during the recent May 2009 search for Dr. Myers. While the majority of images taken during Myers’ disappearance in May have been analyzed, the photographic search will continue through the remainder of the season.

National Park Service managers have determined that the bodies of the two Japanese climbers will not be recovered from their current location due to the extreme risk posed to a recovery team.

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