ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Three climbers were rescued by helicopter from Mount McKinley Thursday, two of whom were unable to walk after sustaining leg injuries in an avalanche Sunday.
Denali National Park officials say an A-Star B3 helicopter contracted by the park picked up Michael Pillegaard, 26, Mads Knudsen, 30, and Nicolai Bo Silver, 26, from the mountain’s 17,200-foot high camp.
“While approaching their intended route up the Autobahn, they triggered an avalanche at approximately 1 p.m.,” park spokesperson Kris Fister wrote in a Thursday statement on the incident. “The avalanche swept them from the 17,600-foot elevation several hundred feet down the slope to a point approximately 200 meters from their campsite.”
Pillegaard, who was relatively uninjured, dragged Knudsen and Bo Silver back to their campsite, where they recuperated for two days. The group used an aviation radio to call for help Wednesday when it became clear that the leg injuries were too severe to walk on, and their request was relayed by a Talkeetna Air Taxi aircraft at 11:30 a.m.
The park’s helicopter was recalled from an assignment in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and was able to drop a bag containing communications devices along with food, fuel and a stove. With contact established, rangers confirmed that the three were in stable condition but unable to climb down.
Fister says the climbers were retrieved in a total of three trips Thursday beginning at 9 a.m., with Knudsen and Bo Silver each evacuated in a rescue basket at the end of a 125-foot line, while Pillegaard was able to board the helicopter for the flight to base camp. LifeMed air ambulances met Knudsen and Bo Silver, transporting them on to Mat-Su Regional Hospital for treatment.
All of this year’s registered climbers are now off the mountain. Only 498 of 1,223 people made it to the summit this season for a success rate of 40.7 percent, the second-lowest in 25 years.