Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Climber Fatality on Denali's Cassin Ridge

AAI just received the following email from Denali National Park.

A 27-year-old Belgian mountaineer was killed in a fall while climbing the Cassin Ridge of Mt. McKinley in the early afternoon of Monday, June 7. Joris Van Reeth of Borgerhout, Belgium was leading a highly technical section of the route known as the Japanese Couloir when his anchor appeared to fail and he fell 100 feet in rocky terrain. Van Reeth fell to the approximate elevation of his partner Sam Van Brempt, age 24, who was positioned below him. Van Brempt was not injured, and after confirming that his friend had died in the fall, he used his satellite phone to call Denali National Park rescue personnel.

A climbing ranger was flown in the park helicopter to Van Brempt’s location at the 13,000-foot level to assess the terrain for a possible shorthaul rescue, although fog and clouds moved in before a rescue could be performed. While on the reconnaissance flight, the ranger had observed a second, unrelated team climbing on the route several hundred feet below the Belgian party. According to Van Brempt who called back via satellite phone later that night, two Japanese climbers reached him in the early evening and assisted Van Brempt in lowering Van Reeth’s body down to a safer location just above the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier at 11,500 feet. When weather permits, Denali mountaineering rangers will evacuate both Van Brempt and the remains of Van Reeth.

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