ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AFP) – Alaska National Park rangers on Friday identified the body of this year’s first recorded climber on North America’s highest peak.
Because it’s so early in the climbing season, Matthias Rimmel, a 35-year-old professional mountain guide from Tyrol, Austria, was alone at the top of Denali, a 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) mountain about 240 miles (386) kilometers) north of Anchorage. The climbing season usually runs from May until mid-July.
Climbers and other rangers camp below 14,000 feet (4,267 metres).
Rimmel was not considered late in comparison to his planned return date and food and fuel supplies, according to Denali National Park and Preserve officials. However, officials said in a statement that a friend who had been receiving regular visits from Rimmel called mountaineering rangers on Tuesday after not receiving a call for several days.
Park officials said Rimmel has already acclimated to the rally due to recent hikes. He was planning on a “Alpine style” climb in Denali, or traveling fast with light equipment. His goal was to reach the top in five days even though he was carrying enough fuel and food to last 10 days.
The average Denali trip is 17 to 21 days for a round trip, with climbers reaching the summit on day 12 or 13, according to the National Park Service.
Officials said Rimmel began his climb on April 27 from Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp at 7,200 feet (2,194 meters).
His last known call to his friend was on April 30, when he informed him that he was tired but not in distress. Rimmel reported its location as just below Denali Trail, at 18,200 feet (5,547 meters) on the West Buttress, the most popular route for Denali climbers.
On Wednesday, a pilot and mountain climbing ranger in a National Park Service helicopter searched for Rimml. The intermittent clouds did not allow a thorough search, but they did not see any signs of its presence.
The statement said they saw his tent at an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,267 metres) but had not noticed any activity recently. High winds and bad weather prevented the helicopter from landing at the camp site, but the helicopter returned on Thursday when the weather was better. Rangers confirmed that Rimmel did not return to the tent.
Clouds prevented the helicopter from flying above 17,200 feet (5,243 meters) Thursday, but park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri told the Associated Press that a helicopter with two rangers on board took off Friday morning from Talkeetna, the nearest community, to resume the search.
Rimmel’s body was spotted in the fall area below Denali Trail during the aerial search, park officials said Friday night in a statement.
Officials said Rimmel likely fell on the steep slope between the 18,200-foot (5,547-meter) Denali Pass and the 17,200-foot (5,243-meter) plateau, a treacherous stretch of West Potterse Trail. The statement said 13 climbers, including Rimmel, died in falls along this crossing, most of them upon landing.
Recovery efforts will not be attempted until the National Park Rangers are acclimated to higher altitudes.
The weather on the mountain was cool, which park officials say is normal at this time of year. Daytime highs were around minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.89 degrees Celsius) with winds in the two base camps up to 30 mph (48 km/h). Five inches (13 cm) of new snow fell last week on the upper mountain.
On the website of his mentoring workRimmel said he was always close to mountains and nature.
He trained as a carpenter after obtaining his high school diploma. In 2015, after completing military service, Rimmel switched to a freelance ski instructor in Austria and outside Europe.
His bio states that he became a professional mountain guide in 2015, the fourth generation of his family to do so. His specialty was long and technically challenging rides.