ANCHORAGE — A Tacoma urologist has died descending Mount McKinley after falling down a hard-packed stretch of mountain.
The body of Sylvia Montag, 39, was spotted Wednesday. She’d become separated from her climbing partner and may have died as early as Monday, the park service said.
Montag and Mike Fuchs, 34, of Germany, were posting audio and written accounts of their early-season attempt to climb North America’s highest peak.
Montag was an experienced high-altitude climber, but she had not attempted the 20,322-foot peak before, National Park Service spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said.
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Montag and Fuchs began their ascent April 15 on Muldrow Glacier. On Saturday, the climbers reached Denali Pass, a notch in the mountain at 18,200 feet. Strong winds that Gualtieri said were at least 50 mph forced them to camp for two nights near the pass.
The climbers decided to move down Monday but became separated.
Fuchs at 11 a.m. called park-service rangers at the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station by satellite phone from the 17,200-foot High Camp on the West Buttress of the mountain and said he had lost contact with Montag.
Both were weakened from multiple nights spent at Denali Pass, Fuchs said. It was not snowing, but winds continued to pound the climbers and clouds may have reduced visibility.
The traverse between Denali Pass and the High Camp has been the site of 11 other deaths, Gualtieri said.
“It can be icy in spots, but (it is) generally hard-packed snow and not very forgiving,” she said.
Fuchs took shelter in the park service “rescue cache,” a metal storage locker that contains emergency supplies and equipment.
He phoned again Tuesday and requested a rescue for him and Montag, but wind and low visibility prevented both a helicopter flight and a ground rescue.
Fuchs on Wednesday morning reported calmer winds and clear skies. But clouds and poor visibility below 17,200 feet again prevented an immediate rescue. A clearing in weather that night allowed a flight of the park’s high-altitude A-Star B3 helicopter.
A pilot and ranger on board spotted Montag’s remains on the Peters Glacier about 800 to 1,000 feet below the traverse to Denali Pass.
Her body will be recovered by a park-service ground team, the agency said.