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Denali rangers searching for solo climber on upper mountain

Park rangers began searching Wednesday
Rangers are searching for 35-year-old Matthias Rimml of Tirol, Austria along the West Buttress of Denali, above his last known camp at 14,000 feet of elevation.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 5:15 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 5:25 PM AKDT
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TALKEETNA, Alaska (KTUU) - The Denali National Park and Preserve reported that rangers are searching for 35-year-old Matthias Rimml of Tirol, Austria along the West Buttress of Denali, above his last known camp at 14,000 feet of elevation.

The national park service wrote in an email that Rimml is a professional mountain guide, and that he left the Kahiltna base camp at 7,200 feet on April 27 with a plan to summit the 20,310 foot peak and return within five days, though he was carrying 10 days of food and fuel. He had been checking in with a friend on a satellite phone, but his last known communication was on April 30 at 2 p.m.

“Rimml is not considered overdue relative to his planned return date and food and fuel supply,” the park wrote in a press release. “However, since his friend had been receiving periodic check-in calls from Rimml, he grew concerned after several days of silence and notified Denali mountaineering rangers.”

Rimml told his friend that he was below Denali Pass at 18,200 feet of elevation along the West Buttress during his last communication.

“He is an experienced mountain guide and experienced in solo travel so we are not ruling out survival at this point in time,” Denali National Park spokesperson Maureen Gualtieri said in an interview.

He brought 10 days of fuel and food with him for the “alpine style” ascent, moving quickly without much heavy equipment.

“The soloist reported being tired, but he was not in distress. It is unknown whether he intended to climb higher or return to his camp at 14,000 feet,” the park wrote.

According to the press release, all others on the mountain including the National Park Service ranger patrol remain camped below 14,000 at this point in the climbing season. Rimml’s friend reported to Denali mountaineering rangers on Tuesday that they had not heard from him, and the National Park Service flew a helicopter overhead on both Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday, park service rangers reported that they observed Rimml’s tent at 14,000 feet, but did not spot any signs of activity. On Thursday, Park Rangers flew a helicopter along the climbing route again and were able to confirm that Rimml had not returned to his test site, but were unable to search above 17,200 feet.

“There is definitely concerning factors with the cold and wind, but we have over time had numerous survival stories of individuals in the Alaska Range surviving these sorts of conditions depending on what equipment they do have and if they are able to get out of the wind,” Gualtieri said. “This individual sounded like he had the skills and knowledge to know how to do that, so we are hopeful that he was able to. It is concerning however that he has not returned back down to his 14,000 foot camp so that is what warrants the search and rescue, so we are hopeful for good weather this evening and into tomorrow to continue our search.”

The park service reports that the warmest temperatures during the daytime have not been above -25 degrees, and that winds over 30 mph have been recorded at the weather station at 14,200 feet. There is an estimated five inches of new snow on Denali as well.

Aerial search flights will continue as the weather permits, according to the release.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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