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Two climbers suffering from hypothermia await rescue at Alaskan mountain – NBC Chicago

Two climbers waited for rescue Wednesday near the summit of North America’s tallest mountain, a day after they and a third climber on their team called for help after climbing Denali during the busiest time of the mountain season, Denali National officials said Park and Preserve.

Their conditions were not immediately known. The third climber was rescued late Tuesday. All three had experience on high-altitude international peaks listed in their climbing histories, and two had a history on Denali, park spokesman Paul Ollig said in an email to The Associated Press.

Park rangers received an SOS message from the three at 1 a.m. Tuesday, revealing that the climbers were hypothermic and unable to descend after reaching the 6,190 meters (20,310 feet) summit.

They continued to communicate until about 3:30 a.m., when they sent plans to descend to a flat area known as the “football field” at about 19,600 feet (5,974 meters), the park service said in a statement.

Rangers heard nothing from the climbers after that and the location of their satellite communications device did not change. Cloud cover prevented the park’s high-altitude helicopter from flying about 50 miles from the community of Talkeetna to Denali Tuesday morning, so the park requested assistance from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. The Alaska Air National Guard flew an HC-130J aircraft from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage to search for the climbers.

Two of the climbers were between 19,000 and 20,000 feet (5,791 and 6,096 meters) elevation of the mountain before Tuesday afternoon. The third climber was spotted by a climbing guide at approximately 18,600 feet (5,669 meters).

Conditions cleared enough Tuesday evening for the high-altitude helicopter to make another attempt, landing at a climbers’ camp at 14,200 feet (4,328 meters).

There, National Park Service mountain rangers had treated two climbers from another expedition for frostbite. The helicopter crew evacuated those climbers to Talkeetna.

A third attempt was made on Tuesday evening to reach the three climbers who sent the emergency message. By then, one of them had descended to a 5,243-foot camp and was suffering from severe frostbite and hypothermia, the park said. The climber, who received assistance from a guided party until a park service team arrived, was flown from the mountain and later evacuated from Talkeetna.

The park service said an experienced expedition guide on the upper mountain provided assistance to the other two climbers, who were on the “football field,” but the guide was forced to descend to the 5,243-foot camp for safety. reasons why the clouds moved back in.

Clouds and windy conditions prevented rescuers from reaching the two climbers on Wednesday, either by plane or by ascending the mountain. Park Service personnel waited until conditions improved before making further attempts.

Ollig, the park spokesman, said it was not known how much survival equipment the two climbers have, but said “it is probably minimal.”

“Typically on a peak day, teams often go up lighter, with more limited survival equipment, so they can move faster,” he said.

He said that while this is “certainly a dramatic rescue operation, it is not necessarily extraordinary.”

There are currently 506 climbers attempting to summit Denali, and the park service said Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the busiest two weeks of the climbing season.

Another 117 climbers have completed their attempts to summit the mountain. Of these, 17 reached the top.

Denali National Park and Preserve is located approximately 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Anchorage.

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Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

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