Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Friday, May 9, 2014 at 7:57 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Washington climber dies on Mount McKinley

A 39-year-old Tacoma urologist died this week descending Alaska’s Mount McKinley.


The Associated Press

advertising

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.

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.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Love the column? Pre-order the book!

Love the column? Pre-order the book!

Reserve your copy of "The Seattle Sketcher," the long-awaited book by staff artist Gabriel Campanario, for the special price of just $29.95.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►