The search for four Mt. McKinley climbers was suspended on Sunday. Search and rescue teams have been scouring the western side of America’s highest mountain since Thursday when an avalanche buried four climbers. One man, Hitoshi Ogi, survived the avalanche.
According to CNN, Ogi and four other climbers were ascending Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress on one rope when the avalanche started tumbling down the mountain. The rope broke during the incident and Ogi was swept into a crevasse. Ogi was able to climb out of the crack, sustaining minor injuries, but was unable to locate his fellow climbers. All four Mt. McKinley climbers are now presumed dead.
Helicopters, climbers, and dogs embarked on a search this weekend but had to call off their efforts after conditions in the area became too dangerous. CNN reports that the search and rescue workers found the crevasse that Ogi had climbed out of, as well as the rope that the men had used during their climb, but were unable to locate any bodies.
The Parks Service said in a statement:
“During the search, NPS mountaineering ranger Tucker Chenoweth descended into the same crevasse that the survivor Hitoshi Ogi had fallen into during the avalanche… While probing through the debris roughly 30 meters below the glacier surface, Chenoweth found a broken rope… (Chenoweth) encountered heavily compacted ice and snow debris… Due to the danger of ice fall within the crevasse, it was decided to permanently suspend the recovery efforts.”
Yoshiaki Kato, 64, Tamao Suzuki, 63, Masako Suda, 50, and Michiko Suzuki, 56, are all presumed dead. The Park Service said that all four climbers were experienced climbers, noting on their registration forms that they had climbed peaks in Africa and Asia. This was their first time, however, climbing Mt. McKinley.
According to CNN, there have been six fatalities on Mount McKinley this season. Since 1932, more than 100 climbers have died on Mount McKinley.