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Avalanche Kills 2 Climbers on Peak Near McKinley

May 25, 2011|By Chris Klint | KTUU.com

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two overdue climbers were found dead Tuesday morning in avalanche debris at the base of a peak near Mount McKinley, according to the National Park Service.

Officials say the two men -- Jiro Kurihara, 33, of Canmore, Alberta, Canada, and 28-year-old Junya Shiraishi of Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan -- were attempting a new route on the west face of Mount Frances, a technical peak just north of McKinley’s 7,200-foot Kahiltna base camp, when they were hit by the avalanche.

Park Service rangers began to search for Kurihara and Shiraishi, who were last seen at the base camp Saturday, by skiing to the western face with a spotting scope on Monday. An aerial search of the peak Tuesday spotted one of the climbers and a partially buried rope, but rangers waited for safer conditions Wednesday morning to recover their bodies.

The climbers flew into the Alaska Range on April 27 with plans to climb McKinley’s Cassin Ridge. They had completed an ascent of the mountain’s west buttress shortly before the avalanche.

According to Denali National Park records, Kurihara and Shiraishi are the first climbers to die on Mount Frances.

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