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Climber killed following fall on Denali

By KTVA CBS 11 News 10:33 AM May 9, 2014

A 39-year-old climber from Tacoma, Washington was killed after a fall from Denali Pass earlier this week, according to the National Park Service.

Syliva Montag was part of a two-person climbing team that began ascending the mountain April 15 by the Muldrow Glacier route. A statement released by the NPS Friday morning said Montag became separated from her climbing partner, 34-year-old Mike Fuchs, while descending Denali Pass in a storm May 5. Fuchs contacted the Talkeetna ranger station via satellite phone Monday and said the pair began the descent after high winds forced them to camp near the pass for two nights.

Fuchs told troopers that he and his climbing parter were weakened from camping and were not roped together when they became separated, according to NPS. Fuchs and Montag did not have radio communications with each other, and Fuchs told rangers each climber carried only partial survival gear.

While Fuchs made it to a camp 17,200 feet up the West Buttress with the satellite phone and camp stove, he said Montag carried the tent and food and was nowhere to be seen.

There were high winds Monday, NPS said, and Fuchs took shelter in a metal storage locker used to store emergency supplies at 17,200 feet. The next morning, he called rangers again to request a rescue, but NPS said high winds and low visibility made it impossible. Fuchs and Montag were the only climbers on the mountain above 14,200 feet, and the park service said the only ranger patrol on the mountain was camped at 7,800 feet.

By May 7 the winds had calmed, NPS said, and Fuchs had still not seen his climbing partner since the descent from Denali Pass several days before. The Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson launched a Hercules C-130 from the 210th Rescue Squadron to provide aerial reconnaissance at noon Wednesday. Montag was nowhere to be seen, NPS said.

Wednesday evening, the skies finally began to clear, and Denali National Park launched a high-altitude helicopter and NPS mountaineering ranger to Denali Pass along with the C-130. After several passes, NPS said, the helicopter crew spotted Montag’s body 800-1,000 feet below Denali Pass on Peters Glacier. Fuchs was spotted standing near the camp at 17,200 feet.

Fuchs was lifted from the camp using a rescue basket attached under the helicopter, NPS said, and eventually released at Talkeetna State Airport following a medical assessment. Montag’s body will be removed by an NPS ground team once they reach the 17,200-foot camp, the park service said.

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