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Japanese Climber Dies on ‘Treacherous’ Section of Denali

The soloist died in a dangerous part of the mountain that has killed 13 other climbers since 1980, according to park officials.
denali rescue helicopterA rescue helicopter near Denali; (photo/Shutterstock)
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A climber was found dead Monday after falling from the upper reaches of North America’s highest mountain.

Denali National Park and Preserve rangers located the deceased climber on Monday after family members reported them missing, Alaska officials said. He was later identified as T. Hagiwara, a man in his mid-40s from Sapporo, Japan, according to officials.

Hagiwara was attempting a solo ascent of Denali’s 20,310-foot summit, and kept in touch with family through an inReach communication device. But on Sunday, a concerned family member said that they hadn’t heard from the climber in several days. After locating the climber’s empty tent at the top of the 16,200-foot ridge, rangers conducted interviews to determine the last known sighting.

A climbing team had witnessed the soloist traversing from a 17,200-foot plateau to Denali Pass at 18,200 feet on Wednesday, May 15, according to a news release.

That’s a dangerous area of the mountain even for experienced climbers, said Denali mountain guide Chelsey Cook. Since 1980, at least 14 climbers have died in falls on this “treacherous section” of Denali’s West Buttress route, park officials said.

“It’s exposed and generally very icy,” Cook said. “If you slip, you’re likely going for a very long ride.”

upper denali
The upper portion of the West Buttress Route of Denali, showing the approximate location of the incident; (photo/NPS)

Rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station also collected satellite location data from the climber’s inReach account, according to a news release. That led them to a probable location of about 17,000 feet on Denali’s West Buttress. Since the device location hadn’t changed since Thursday, May 16, it’s likely the climber fell on that day, officials said.

A patrol from the National Park Service discovered the climber’s body on Monday using a spotting scope. The rangers secured the climber’s body in place, and plan to return for body recovery when weather conditions improve.

Meanwhile, another 352 climbers are currently on the same route, according to park officials. However, the majority of them are much lower on the mountain this early in the climbing season, which typically begins in early May and ends in early July.

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