Denali climber dies in fall

2010 Denali base camp. (NPS Photo/Kent Miller)

A 2010 Denali base camp. (NPS Photo/Kent Miller)

A 39-year-old Washington state woman is the first victim of the Denali climbing season.

Sylvia Montag, of Tacoma, fell earlier this week while descending Denali Pass on Alaska’s highest mountain, officially known as Mount McKinley.

National Park Service mountaineering rangers say Montag and Michael Fuchs, 34, of Berlin, Germany, were climbing near the pass on Saturday, May 3. They were about 18,000 feet when poor weather forced them to turn back from the summit and set up camp to shelter from high winds.

Two days later, on Monday, Montag and Fuchs began their descent down Denali’s West Buttress, but became separated.  Fuchs told the Park Service via satellite phone that each had limited supplies and he’d taken shelter in a storage locker at High Camp, around 17,200 feet.  On Tuesday, Fuchs requested rescue. He told park rangers that he’d heard nothing from Montag.

High winds and poor visibility prevented the Park Service from launching a rescue helicopter until Wednesday.

Montag’s remains were spotted nearly 1,000 feet below Denali Pass.

Fuchs was found near his camp and airlifted to base camp.  After a medical assessment, he was flown to Talkeetna State Airport.