by Chris Klint
10:59 AM AKDT, June 30, 2011
Denali National Park officials began to search Wednesday for an overdue solo climber on Mount McKinley.
Forty-one-year-old Juergen Kanzian, an Alps mountaineering guide from Koetschach-Mauthen, Austria, was last seen at 8 p.m. Monday during an ascent to Denali Pass at 18,000 feet via the West Buttress route. According to park spokesperson Maureen McLaughlin, a guided team alerted National Park Service rangers to Kanzian’s absence Tuesday night after he didn’t return to his tent at the 17,200-foot high camp.
Kanzian had told other climbers he planned to ski from the summit via the standard West Buttress route. He was wearing warm clothes and believed to be carrying a satellite phone, as well as an unknown quantity of survival gear and supplies.
Weather conditions at the time of Kanzian’s disappearance included low to moderate winds, some cloud cover, and temperatures between 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. In the two days prior to his departure, rangers at the high camp recorded several feet of new snow.
Rangers began ground investigations and searches with a spotting scope Wednesday morning, and alerted climbing teams on the mountain to be on the lookout for signs of Kanzian.
In addition to the ground effort, the park’s A-Star B3 helicopter and a Bureau of Land Management Pilatus PC-12 plane conducted six flight hours of searching Wednesday afternoon. No initial signs of Kanzian were seen, but hundreds of high-resolution photographs taken during the air search are being examined for clues.
Air and ground searchers are continuing to look for Kanzian Thursday as weather permits.
So far this year, eight climbers have died in the Alaska Range. According to the Associated Press, the deadliest year to date in Denali National Park was 1992 when 13 climbers died, including 11 on Mount McKinley and two on Mount Foraker.
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