Eli Michel, 34, of Columbia City, Indiana, and Nafiun Awal, 32, of Seattle, are believed to have fallen Friday while climbing Moose’s Tooth’s West Ridge route.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Hai missing climber in Alaska likely triggered a small avalanche, and officials said Tuesday that the expected path they suspect will fall will end at a fractured glacier.
“That is the area where we are focusing our aerial search efforts in the coming days,” said Maureen Gualtieri, spokesman for Denali National Park and Reserve.
Eli Michel, 34, of Columbia City, Indiana, and Nafiun Awal, 32, of Seattle, are believed to have fallen Friday while climbing the West Ridge route of Moose’s Tooth — a 10,300-foot mountain in Ruth Gorge, about 12 miles southeast of Moose’s Tooth. Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, park officials said.
No aerial search is scheduled for Tuesday because of low visibility and snowfall in the canyon.
The two men last communicated with friends via satellite communication at around 5 a.m. Friday. Two days later, friends contacted park officials when they received no response from the climbers.
Climbing rangers used a contract helicopter to fly over the area for about eight hours from Sunday to Monday. Ground searches on the glacier both days included a ranger being tapped into a helicopter’s short rope to help protect rangers from falling into a crevice.
On Sunday, the first day of the search, rangers found the climbers’ tent and unattended ski track leading to the base of the West Ridge climbing route.
At that site, they found men’s skis, indicating that they had switched to using iron nails for climbing. The rangers followed the footprints to the avalanche.
“The avalanche itself seemed relatively small in terms of snow volume, so we didn’t see a large pile of debris at the base of the mountain,” said Gualtieri. “Whatever debris was there, it appears to have been deposited into various large crevices in the glacier.”
Among the items found on the avalanche trail were two ice axes high above the debris field and a climbing helmet at the bottom. Gualtieri says that suggests the two climbers may have lost their gear when they fell.
The national park is about 230 miles north of Anchorage.