Outdoor News
Home Outdoor Event Calendar Outdoor Directory Outdoor Forums


Climber Still Missing on Mt. Huntington

August 23, 2005

A climber is missing after an avalanche on Mt. Huntington in Denali National Park & Preserve. The climberís partner reported the incident directly to the Talkeetna Ranger Station staff via satellite phone at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15. The missing climber, Johnny Soderstrom, age 26 of Trapper Creek, was last observed by his partner between 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, as the two-person team approached the West Face Couloir route on Mt. Huntington, a 12,240-foot peak situated just south of Mt. McKinley.

Soderstrom was skiing up ahead of his partner Joe Reichert as the two ascended the peak near its 8,800-foot level. Reichert observed his partner reach a bench, or relatively flat portion of the route, and then Soderstrom skied out of view. When Reichert reached the same bench, he was unable to see or hear the lost climber. Although Reichert did not observe an avalanche occur, debris covered the area. After probing for over three hours, the partner descended to the teamís basecamp at 8,000-feet and phoned for assistance.

Poor visibility and weather conditions precluded a rescue effort Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, Alaskaís Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) launched a military C-130 aircraft and a Pavehawk helicopter, both operated by the Air National Guard 210th Pararescue Unit, at approximately 9:30 a.m.out of Kulis Air Force Base in Anchorage. The Pavehawk helicopter, with three Pararescuemen on board, flew to the teamís camp and picked up Reichert.

After an initial aerial search of the avalanche area, the Pavehawk returned to Talkeetna. A smaller, more maneuverable B-3 helicopter piloted by Alaska State Trooper pilot Mel Nading, flew back to the incident site with mountaineering ranger Gordy Kito and avalanche expert Blaine Smith of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center for further aerial searching and to make an avalanche risk assessment. Based on the assessment, the search zone was determined to be confined to an area smaller than the size of a football field. The majority of debris had collected in a large crevasse at the bottom of the slide path. Smith and Kito determined that the area probed by Reichert immediately following the accident was the most likely location of the missing climber. The avalanche slide path subsequently re-loaded with new snow that fell throughout the day on Tuesday. Avalanche concerns and inadequate rotor clearance preclude a helicopter landing at the immediate site, and approaches from safer landing zones are also considered to be heavily avalanche prone.

The National Park Service (NPS) is not considering a ground search at this time due to the extreme danger posed to searchers due to severe avalanche hazard. The NPS will continue air operations on Thursday to re-assess avalanche hazard and look for any activity at the site.

Related Articles
AZ Non-resident
Long Trails
Loggerhead Turtle
Tennessee Caves
Caney Fork River
Rehab Directory
Mammal Photos


Free Shipping on Orders over $50

Hunting Gear That's Cheaper Than Dirt

Join the Good Sam Club!

Wind and Weather

Free Shipping on Orders over $50

Free domestic ground shipping on orders over $125