National Park

Risky, impatient climbers put America’s highest peak at risk | national


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Rangers who watch North America’s highest peak say impatient and inexperienced climbers are taking more risks and endangering themselves and fellow climbers after a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Denali, in southern Alaska, is 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) above sea level and requires a level of expertise and acclimatization to high altitudes that are not necessary to climb most of the peaks in the United States.

“We have seen a disturbing amount of overconfidence associated with inexperience in the Alaska Range,” the National Park Service wrote in a statement on Thursday. The remoteness and extreme weather conditions in Alaska pose additional risks, even for climbers may have a lot of experience. at altitudes up to 14,000 feet in the Lower 48.

After reporting no deaths in 2018 and 2019, at least two people have already died on the mountain in 2021. Two others have been seriously injured, authorities said.

Earlier this month, a Colorado skier died after falling into a crevasse. An Idaho climber was killed by a fall from a block of glacier ice, rangers reported.

Rangers released their statement after a Canadian climber was seriously injured in a fall from nearly 305 meters (1,000 feet). He was not wearing ropes. Other climbers reported the fall and a nearby helicopter surveying the glaciers was able to save the man, park officials said.

In recent years, rangers have reported seeing more climbers attempting to climb Denali’s summit by climbing the 2,134 meters from final base camp to the summit in one day, which is nearly impossible except for the most experienced climbers.

“Exhaustion, the untested physiological response at high altitude, rapidly changing weather conditions and insufficient equipment on such a long push are all factors we have seen contributing to injuries and deaths,” the department said. Park.

Experts recommend taking 17 to 21 days to climb the Denali. This includes days off and extra days to wait for extreme weather conditions. Many expeditions spark “desperation, impatience and summit fever” when they run out of days and take risks, rangers said.

Denali officials are also seeing people leaving their original climbing groups after reaching the final base camp at 4,267 meters, as the groups are reluctant to make it to the top. Instead, climbers join other groups or individuals they have just encountered.

Sometimes these people get too sick to continue and are crammed into tents with other more prepared climbers, using their water and fuel. “A number of climbing teams have seen their own nominations for the summit disrupted or ruined by the need to care for these climbers,” the statement said.

The statement also reminded climbers that the National Park Service only saves people when their lives, limbs or eyesight are in danger.

“Anything we judge outside of these categories, we’ll let you decide for yourself, and this year we’ve already turned down rescue requests that don’t meet these criteria,” they said.

The Parks Department limits the number of people who can climb the Denali to less than 1,500 per year. In 2019, 726 people made the summit, according to the agency.

The busiest time for rock climbing in Denali is May and June. Cold weather is a problem in the spring and storms become more frequent in the summer.

Forecast for Sunday’s summit predicted a 40% chance of snow with temperatures of minus 10 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 to -18 degrees Celsius) and winds of up to 56 km / h, according to National Weather Service.

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