Denali National Park and Preserve officials initiated an aerial and ground search on May 7 for two overdue climbers who were last known to be in the vicinity of the Moose’s Tooth, a 10,300-foot mountain in the Alaska park’s Ruth Gorge.
Eli Michel, age 34, of Columbia City, IN, and Nafiun Awal, age 32, of Seattle, WA, were last heard from at 5 AM on Friday, May 5, after they checked in with a friend via an InReach satellite communication device. At that time, the climbers indicated they intended to climb the West Ridge route of the Moose’s Tooth. Concerned when the two climbers did not check in again, the reporting party contacted Denali National Park mountaineering rangers in Talkeetna on Sunday morning.
An initial search of the area found the team’s unattended tent and ski tracks heading to the base of the route. At that point, the rangers located the team’s cache of skis, where they had switched to crampons for the ascent. Boot tracks continue high on the West Ridge into a recent small slab avalanche. No other tracks were observed on Sunday.
An aerial search yesterday focused on the highly crevassed runout zone. A ground search will be limited due to crevasse danger and overhead hazards. Updated information will be shared as it becomes available.
According to Wikipedia, The Moose’s Tooth (or simply Moose’s Tooth, Mooses Tooth) is a rock peak on the east side of the Ruth Gorge in the Central Alaska Range, 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Denali. Despite its relatively low elevation, it is a difficult climb. It is notable for its many large rock faces and its long ice couloirs, which are famous in mountaineering circles and have seen a number of highly technical ascents.
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