Two Climbers Die in Mount Francis Avalanche

Two climbers have been killed in an avalanche in Denali National Park.  The Park Service reports that 33-year-old Jiro Kurihara of Canmore, Alberta, and 28-year-old Junya Shiraishi of Sapporo, Japan were found dead in avalanche debris near the base of Mt. Francis, a 10,400 foot peak near Mt. McKinley. National Park Spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin says the men were experienced climbers with plans to attempt a previously un-scaled route.

The body of one of the climbers was spotted from the air Tuesday by rangers aboard a Park Service chartered helicopter.  Rangers returned this morning and found the other climber’s body, and evacuated both of the dead by helicopter from the mountain. McLaughlin says conditions and timing may have played into the deadly avalanche.

McLaughlin says the route where the avalanche occurred includes mixed snow, ice and rock, including 45 to 50 degree slopes. She says Mount Francis is a popular “add on” climb for Denali mountaineers because of it close proximity to Mt. McKinley, and that the men killed had already climbed the larger peak. There are several technically challenging routes on Mt. Francis, which normally sees 10 to 12 attempts per year, most via the southwest or east ridge.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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