On Friday, Alaska National Park rangers located the body of the year’s first recorded mountaineer on North America’s highest peak.
Because it’s so early in the climbing season, Matthias Rimml, a 35-year-old professional mountain guide from Tyrol, Austria, was alone on the top of Denali, a 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) mountain. ) about 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Anchorage. The climbing season generally runs from May to mid-July.
Other climbers and rangers camp below the 14,000 foot (4,267 meter) level.
Rimml had not been considered overdue for his scheduled return date and food and fuel supplies, according to Denali National Park and Preserve officials. However, a friend who received periodic recordings from Rimml contacted the Mountaineers Wardens on Tuesday after not receiving a call for days, officials said in a statement.
Park officials said Rimml was already acclimated to the altitude due to recent climbs. He planned to climb Denali “alpine style” or travel fast with light gear. His goal was to reach the summit in five days even if he carried enough fuel and food to last 10 days.
The average Denali expedition takes 17 to 21 days for a round trip, with climbers reaching the summit on day 12 or 13, according to the National Park Service.
Rimml began his ascent on April 27 from Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp at 7,200 feet (2,194 meters), officials said.
His last known call to his friend was on April 30, when he reported that he was tired but not in distress. Rimml reported its location just below Denali Pass at 18,200 feet (5,547 meters) in the western foothills, the most popular route for Denali climbers.
On Wednesday, a pilot and a ranger in a National Park Service helicopter searched for Rimml. The intermittent clouds did not permit a thorough search, but they saw no sign of him.
They saw his tent at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) but observed no recent activity, the statement said. High winds and bad weather prevented the helicopter from landing at the campsite, but the helicopter returned on Thursday when the weather was better. Rangers confirmed that Rimml did not return to the tent.
Clouds prevented the helicopter from flying above 17,200 feet (5,243 meters) on Thursday, but park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri told The Associated Press that a helicopter with two rangers on board had taken off Friday morning from Talkeetna, the nearest community, to resume the search.
Rimml’s body was spotted in the drop zone below Denali Pass during the aerial search, park officials said Friday night in a statement.
Rimml likely fell on the steep traverse between Denali Pass at 18,200ft (5,547m) and the 17,200ft (5,243m) plateau, a notoriously treacherous stretch of the West Buttress route, officials said. Thirteen climbers, including Rimml, died in falls along this traverse, with the majority occurring during the descent, the statement said.
Recovery efforts will not be attempted until a patrol of national park rangers are acclimatized to the high altitude.
Weather on the mountain has been cold, which park officials say is normal for this time of year. Daytime highs were around minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.89 degrees Celsius) with winds at both base camps registering up to 30 mph (48 km/h). Five inches (13 centimeters) of fresh snow fell last week on the high mountain.
On his guide company’s website, Rimml said he’s always been close to the mountains and nature.
He trained as a carpenter after graduating from high school. In 2015, after finishing his military service, Rimml became a freelance ski instructor in Austria and outside Europe.
He became a professional mountain guide in 2015, the fourth generation in his family to do so, his bio states. His specialty was long and technically difficult combination tours.