Thursday, June 30, 2011

Search Underway for Missing Climbers

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Denali National Park:

Denali National Park and Preserve officials initiated an aerial and ground search on June 29 for an overdue solo climber on Mt. McKinley.  Juergen Kanzian, age 41 of Koetschach-Mauthen, Austria was last seen at 8:00 pm on June 27 while ascending to Denali Pass at 18,000 feet on the West Buttress route.  When Kanzian had not returned to his tent at the 17,200-foot high camp by 8:00 pm the following night, a guided team alerted NPS rangers at the 14,200-foot camp.

Kanzian, a mountaineering guide in the Alps, was last seen on skis and had told other climbers he intended to ski from the summit via the standard West Buttress route.  It is unknown how much survival gear and supplies Kanzian was carrying, although he was wearing warm clothing and was believed to be carrying a satellite phone.  Weather conditions at the time of his disappearance included low to moderate winds, some cloud cover, and temperatures between 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the two days prior to his disappearance, rangers at high camp recorded several feet of new snow.

On Wednesday morning, June 29, NPS rangers began ground investigations and searching with a spotting scope, while several guided and independent climbing teams headed towards the summit were on alert for clues to Kanzian’s whereabouts.  On Wednesday afternoon, two air resources were launched in the search effort, including Denali’s A-Star B3 helicopter and a Pilatus PC-12 fixed wing aircraft from the Aviation Branch of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).   In six flight hours focused at upper elevations and along the West Buttress route, there were no initial signs of the Austrian mountaineer, however hundreds of high resolution photos were taken and are currently being examined for clues.

The aerial, ground, and photographic search resumed early Thursday morning, and is expected to continue as weather permits.

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