Updated at 4:45 p.m.
One man was killed and another seriously injured by falling ice debris on Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park and Preserve early Thursday morning.
The two climbers were en route to begin their ascent of the west face of Reality Ridge around 5 a.m. when a hanging block of glacier ice dislodged and hit them.
According to Park spokesperson Maureen Gualtieri, it appeared that the men had not yet begun the climb when an ice chunk fell from above and landed on top of them. “It sounded like a considerable chunk of ice,” Gualtieri said, but it is impossible to estimate the exact amount.
The impact knocked the surviving climber, a 31-year old male from Logan, Utah, unconscious, accord to a Park news release. Once he regained consciousness, he found that his climbing partner — a 32-year old man from Rigby, Idaho — had died. The survivor alerted park officials of the accident around 6 a.m. Although he incurred “serious injuries” the individual was able to move away from the debris zone while waiting for rescue, according to the release.
Denali National Park’s high altitude helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers arrived at the site about 7 a.m. The survivor was evacuated to a safer area of the glacier for emergency medical treatment. He was then transported to an air ambulance for further medical care.
As of Friday morning, the surviving climber was still in the hospital. Gualtieri did not have specific details about the extent of his injuries, but said that they were “consistent with getting hit by a lot of heavy ice.” These included head injuries, she said.
The names of the two individuals have not been released, and Gualtieri said it is possible they will not be for the foreseeable future.
The rescue team attempted to return to the scene of the accident on Thursday afternoon but was deterred by cloud cover. The helicopter returned on Friday morning and crews were able to recover the remains, according to the Park Service.
This is the second death in Denali in less than two weeks. On May 3, a Colorado man died after falling into a crevasse while skiing on a glacier in the park.
Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 459-7544.