Rangers rescue Denali climber hurt in snowboarding fall

Photo: National Park Service
Denali (National Park Service photo)

The National Park Service rescued a climber Sunday on Denali who had been injured in a fall days earlier while snowboarding down the mountain, the tallest in North America.

Park Service spokesperson Maureen Gualtieri says the climber, whom the Park Service did not name, was part of a two-person team, both descending on snowboards.

“And it’s a pretty icy year,” Gualtieri said. “One of them lost control and fell, suffered some traumatic injuries and could not proceed down hill without extreme pain. And they were worried about internal injuries, so they stayed put.”

That was Wednesday at a spot called Windy Corner, at an elevation of about 13,500 feet. The climbers reported the accident immediately and had good communications with the Park Service with an InReach satellite messaging device, as well as a satellite phone, Gualtieri said.

But the Park Service could not get a helicopter to the injured climber for four days due to bad weather, starting with high winds, then a storm.

“They were at, you know, arguably one of the windiest spots on Denali, at least at middle elevation, so I’m sure that four days felt longer than it was on paper,” Gualtieri said.

Rangers made it to the climbers Saturday with supplies in case the bad weather continued, Gualtieri said. It broke Sunday, though, when the Park Service’s helicopter was able to reach them, she said. They hauled the climbers, one at a time, down the mountain in what’s known as a “screamer suit,” on a line below the helicopter, Gualtieri said.

The injured climber was expected to survive, but Gualtieri was unable to comment on their medical status once off the mountain or the extent of the injuries.

She said the two-person group was one of the first to climb on Denali for the summer mountaineering season, which is still in its early stages.