4 missing climbers presumed dead after avalancheBy Nigel Duara
One member of a Japanese climbing team survived and four others are presumed dead after an avalanche swept them off a hill during their descent from Alaska’s Mount McKinley.
U.S. National Park Service officials say five people were traveling as one rope team early Thursday morning as part of a Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation expedition on the Alaska mountain.
Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said Hitoshi Ogi, 69, survived after falling 60 feet (18 meters) into a crevasse. He was able to climb out.
The other four tumbled into the avalanche debris and haven’t been seen since. The climbers are presumed dead by either snow burial or injuries suffered in falls.
Snowfall and wind have impeded a search for the missing climbers.
Hitoshi spoke to Park Service employees after the event. He said the climbers were descending the mountain together when the avalanche began, McLaughlin said. They sped up, trying to get down the mountain faster, but the rope connecting them broke when the avalanche struck.
Hitoshi was the lowest person on the rope team. He looked for the other four but couldn’t find them.
“He wasn’t sure of all the events,” McLaughlin said, adding that Hitoshi spoke through a translator and was exhausted.
The four missing climbers are 64-year-old Yoshiaki Kato, 50-year-old Masako Suda, 56-year-old Michiko Suzuki, and 63-year-old Tamao Suzuki.
There was new snow on the route, but the weather on Thursday was calm, McLaughlin said.
“Where the avalanche occurred, the vast majority (of the new snow) w