A 36-year-old Finnish skier, Ikka Uusitalo, died last Wednesday, May 23rd, after taking a 2,000 foot fall on Mt. McKinley’s (Denali) Orient Express couloir. Ikka fell from approximately 17,800 feet and came to rest 60 feet deep in a crevasse at 15,850 feet. He fell down snow, ice, and rock. Skier Dies After 2,000-Foot Fall on 20,320’ Mount McKinley, Alaska | Unofficial Networks

Skier Dies After 2,000-Foot Fall on 20,320’ Mount McKinley, Alaska

Skier Dies After 2,000-Foot Fall on 20,320’ Mount McKinley, Alaska

ALL

Skier Dies After 2,000-Foot Fall on 20,320’ Mount McKinley, Alaska

By

Near the summit of 20,320-foot Mt. Mckinley, AK, the highest point in North America

A 36-year-old Finnish skier, Ikka Uusitalo, died last Wednesday, May 23rd, after taking a 2,000 foot fall on Mt. McKinley’s (Denali) Orient Express couloir (named for the number of Japanese & Korean climbers who have fallen down it and died).  The Orient Express is 40-45 degrees and 3,000+ vertical feet.

Ikka fell from approximately 17,800 feet and came to rest 60 feet deep in a crevasse at 15,850 feet.  He fell down snow, ice, and rock.

One of his 3 teammates rappelled into the crevasse and determined that Ikka was most likely dead.  

The National Park Service climbing rangers arrived one hour after the accident and dropped 60 feet down into the crevasse to rescue Ikka.  They determined that Ikka was deceased and extracted the body from the crevasse.

Ikka Uusitalo

Ikka’s body was removed from the mountain via long line by the National Parks Service’s A-Star B3 helicopter to the Kahiltna air strip.  From there it was taken by plane to Talkeetna.

“Since 1972, 16 fatalities have occurred during descents of the Orient Express.” – National Park Serivce

Although 16 people have perished descending the Orient Express, it’s thought that Ikka was the first to die while skiing the chute (although many skiers have fallen down it and been injured – see video below).

The weather was good at the time of the accident but the snow was still hard.

“The route was probably more hard packed.  I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘icy,’ but hard, wind-packed snow conditions.” – Maureen McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Denali National Park

Map showing the Orient Express. All red lines end at 14,000 foot base camp

DEATH ON MT. MCKINLEY 1903-2006

– 96 deaths

– 3.08/1000 = fatality rate

– Of the 96 deaths:

  • 45% were due to injuries sustained from falls
  • 61% occurred during the descent, 92% were male
  • 51% occurred on Western Buttress route (normal route)

– 1992 = most deaths in one year

– Climbers from Asia had the highest odds of dying on the mountain

– Fatalities decreased 53% after a NPS registration system was established in 1995

– source for above numbers = pubmed.org 

 

Doug Byerly skiing the Orient Express on Denali (Mt. McKinley) around 10:30 at night. 1995

MT. MCKINLEY CLIMBING STATS 1903-2011:

– 37,306 attempts

– 17.739 did not summit

– 19,564 reached summit

– 52% success rate

– 1,100+ climbers per year since 1992

– Climbing season = April to July

MT. MCKINLEY CLIMBING STATS 2012:

– The chart below shows the current numbers of registered climbers for Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker as of Tuesday, May 29, 2012.

Climbing Statistics the 2012 Season Mt. McKinley Mt. Foraker
Number of Registered Climbers 1,108 12
Climbers Currently On Mountain 507 6
Completed Climbs 172 6
Number of Summits 71 0
Summit Percentage 41% 0%

– 2 deaths this climbing season

 

Our condolences to the family and friends of this fallen skier.

More Unofficial Networks