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Washington climber dies in fall during early season Denali climb

by Phillip Manning ~ May 9th, 2014

Sylvia Montag and Mike Fuchs in Talkeetna around April 14, 2014

Sylvia Montag and Mike Fuchs in Talkeetna before their expedition. Photo by Mike Fuchs.

Just days into climbing season, a mountaineer has died in an an accident high on Denali.  Sylvia Montag, 39, of Tacoma Washington, became separated from her climbing partner around May 5th.  Montag and her partner, Mike Fuchs, 34, of Berlin, Germany, were climbing near Denali Pass on May 3rd at just over 18,000 feet when the weather forced them to turn back from the summit and set up camp to shelter from the high winds.  After waiting out the weather for two days, Montag and Fuchs began their descent down the West Buttress of Denali.

At 11:00 am on Monday, the National Park Service says that Fuchs reported via satellite phone that he and Montag had become separated and both had limited supplies.  Fuchs had taken shelter in a storage locker kept at High Camp, around 17,200 feet.  On Tuesday, May 6th, Fuchs called the National Park Service again and requested rescue.  He still had not heard from Montag.

High winds and poor visibility prevented the Park Service from launching its rescue helicopter on Tuesday.  Because Montag and Fuchs were climbing very early in the season, mountaineering rangers were not yet in position to help on the ground, either.  On Wednesday morning, the weather cleared enough for the rescue helicopter to launch.  Montag’s remains were spotted nearly 1,000 feet below Denali Pass.  Mountaineering rangers believe she fell while descending from the pass sometime on May 5th.  Fuchs was spotted near his camp at 17,200 feet and airlifted to base camp.  After a medical assessment, he was flown to the Talkeetna State Airport and released.

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