by Lorien Nettleton ~ July 27th, 2012
Three mountaineers were evacuated from the 17,200-foot high camp on McKinley’s West Buttress after an avalanche injured two in the party. They were the last climbers registered to climb McKinley this season, and were the only ones remaining on the mountain.
Danish mountaineers Michael Pilegaard, age 26; Mads Knudsen, age 30 and Nicolai Bo Silver, age 26 had set out from the high camp on Sunday, July 22 for a summit attempt. At around 1 in the afternoon they triggered an avalanche while attempting a non-standard route up the Autobahn section of the Best Buttress at 17,600 feet
According to Denali National Park Spokesperson Kris Fister, the trio survived the avalanche, and didn’t call for assistance right away.
On Wednesday morning the party made radio contact with a sightseeing aircraft who was then able to notify the park of their situation. The incident happened after the main climbing season, and park personnel were not on the mountain at the time. According to Fister, the park first established direct contact with the trio by helicopter, which dropping a bag to them containing park service radios, a sat phone, and standard 2 way radios to them, along with food and fuel.
The two injured climbers were flown down to base camp at 9,000 feet in a basket slung from the park’s helicopter, where LifeMed helicopters waited to take them to MatSu regional hospital for treatment
All of the registered climbers are now off the mountain. A total of 1223 attempted the mountain this year, and 498 made it to the summit, for a summit success percentage of 40.7%. This is the second lowest summit rate in the last 25 years.