This incident report can also be found on avalanche.org’s accident page HERE.
Two climbers set out at 5 AM Friday, May 5 to climb the West Ridge route of the Moose’s Tooth, a steep technical route characterized by a moderate angle approach to a mix of 60-degree snow, ice, and rock slopes. Based on communications with their friend, the team had intended to climb the route in a single, long push. As is typical, to minimize weight and move fast, they did not take overnight gear, nor likely more than a day’s supply of food, water, and fuel.
Search efforts began Sunday, May 7 after a concerned friend alerted park officials that the team had not checked back via InReach following their climb. These efforts continued through Thursday, May 11 after which the search was scaled back. Clues collected by mountaineering rangers throughout the search indicate that the climbers were swept off their feet by a small slab avalanche on the evening of Friday, May 5, high on the peak’s West Ridge route. Several items of the climbers’ equipment, including two ice axes, were observed off the climbing route during aerial searches of the 3,200-foot fall line. Multiple ground searches of the heavily crevassed glacier at the bottom of the fall line were conducted via helicopter short-haul in order to reduce exposure to rockfall and avalanche hazards to rescuers. The two climbers were not found.
Spotters on aerial and ground missions searched both the climbing route and the fall line to the degree that if the climbers were visible on the surface, there is a high probability they would have been discovered. Considering the severity of the rocky terrain along the 3,200-foot fall line, the team’s limited supplies, temperatures ranging from 5 F to 20 F overnight, and the duration of time since last contact, search managers have concluded that survival is outside the window of possibility.
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Anchorage Daily News Story