Search continues for missing McKinley climber
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
ANCHORAGE, Alaska ” The likelihood that a Colorado man is alive somewhere on Mount McKinley is diminishing with each passing day, but search crews have not given up looking for Gerald Myers.
They were out again Monday, nearly a week since Myers was last spotted on a solo climb and attempting to reach the summit of North America’s highest peak. When seen last Tuesday, the 41-year-old Centennial, Colo., man was wearing a red jacket when he left camp at 17,000 feet and headed up the mountain.
Myers likely was carrying minimal survival gear. He was last seen that same afternoon above Denali Pass at 18,200 feet.
Maureen McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Denali National Park, said searchers are paying close attention to the upper mountain’s west face. On Monday morning, two Army Chinook helicopters from Fort Wainwright had to cut short the search because of winds that were between 25 and 35 miles per hour.
“The winds have calmed a bit,” McLaughlin said Monday afternoon.
However, fluctuating winds prevented the helicopters from going out again in the afternoon. A high-altitude park helicopter with a pilot and spotter was able to get to the search area.
A three-person ground crew on Monday was searching an area above the Denali Pass along a ridge at about 18,200 feet. Searchers were focusing on an area between 18,000 and 20,000 feet.
“They are taking a closer look over the lip heading down to the west face,” McLaughlin said.
She said it’s possible that Myers could have slipped and is injured, or perhaps sought shelter off the ridge in a crevasse or indentation in the rock when the winds increased.
McLaughlin said if Myers was OK they would have expected that he would have drawn attention to himself by now and someone would have spotted him.
“We would assume he is injured or ill at this point,” she said.
There has been no signal from a locater beacon that Myers had been activating every day to provide an indication of where he was on the mountain. The last time the beacon was activated was last Tuesday.
Myers, who is a practicing chiropractor in Colorado, was an experienced climber but McKinley, at 20,320 feet, is higher than what he has climbed before, McLaughlin said.
“It does appear to be his first trip to Alaska and his first trip to higher elevation above 14,000 feet,” she said.
McLaughlin said the two Army helicopters have returned to Fort Wainwright. If Myers is not found by the end of Monday, the search plan will be reassessed.
Weather prevented an effective search on Sunday.
On Saturday, three aircraft with spotting crews flew over 10 hours looking for Myers. Search zones included the upper mountain between 14,200 and 17,200 feet, as well as potential north side descent routes.
McLaughlin said 454 climbers were on the mountain on Monday. The two-week period at the end of May and the beginning of June tends to be the busiest on McKinley.
So far this climbing season, one climber has died of natural causes. Another who was suffering from pulmonary edema had to be evacuated by helicopter.
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