HomeOutdoorsNewsDenali National Park climber survives fall from 16,000 foot glacial ridge

Denali National Park climber survives fall from 16,000 foot glacial ridge

by Jon D. B.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve. (Photo by © Paul A. Souders/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Miraculously, Denali National Park and Preserve rangers located the climber on the evening of Friday, May 19 with only “minor injuries,” the park notes to Outsider.

Young climber Tatsuto Hatanaka is, by all accounts, lucky to be alive. The 24-year-old from Setagaya-ku, Japan was climbing with a partner last Friday when the unthinkable happened. On the West Buttress climbing route on Denali just above the fixed line at 16,200 feet, at approximately 11 PM, Hatanaka’s partner witnessed him fall from the ridge.

According to officials, the climbing partner could not see where Hatanaka landed, let alone access it. After attempting and failing to find Hatanaka, the stable climber would notify Denali National Park & Preserve rangers of the fall at around 2 AM on Saturday morning, approx. 3 hours after Hatanaka’s fall.

A National Park Service helicopter was dispatched and, thankfully, could see Hatanaka’s location. But cloudy weather conditions would prevent the helicopter from accessing his area. At the same time, mountaineering rangers would conduct a ground search from Denali Base Camp at 14,000 feet.

Eventually, a ground search from the 14,200 Foot Camp also got a visual on Hatanaka’s location. He was at approximately 15,100 feet on the upper Peters Glacier. And he was alive.

After falling from the 16,000 foot ridge on the West Buttress to the Peters Glacier, Hatanaka had fallen 900 feet – and lived.

A mountaineering ranger was able to evacuate him from the site. He would sustain only minor injuries.

Denali National Park and Preserve rescues three climbers in a week

“Four more mountaineering rangers were on their way from the 14,200 Camp to assist in the search and rescue. Alaska Rescue Coordination Center had a C-130 fixed-wing military aircraft looking for holes in the cloud ceiling to direct park service’s high-altitude helicopter to Hatanaka’s location. The patient was transferred by Life Med helicopter to a hospital,” Denali notes of the aftermath.

On Sunday, May 21, 2023, Denali rangers would conduct another successful rescue. That effort took place on Peak 11,300 on the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier.

“On Saturday evening, Alaska Regional Communications Center (ARCC) located in Denali National Park and Preserve received an InReach notification that two climbers with minor injuries were stranded due to lost gear and damaged ropes on the west face of Peak 11,300 on the Ruth Glacier,” the park’s media release cites.

Poor weather conditions in the mountains would prevent a rescue on Saturday night, however. So the National Park Service high-altitude helicopter launched at 9:15 am on Sunday morning. Two mountaineering rangers would assess the site and rescue operations. Then, rangers were able to complete a successful short-haul rescue operation using 250-foot line suspended from the helicopter with a ranger attached.

The ranger was then able to safely rescue both climbers from the steep technical face and bring them to staging site for assessment. The two climbers were then flown back to Talkeetna.

Denali National Park and Preserve is among the most dangerous U.S. National Parks. But their rangers and rescue teams are also some of the most skilled and tough officials out there. Well done to all involved, and speedy recoveries to these climbers.