Two missing in avalanche on Mount Foraker

Park Service now saying avalanche occurred Saturday, climbers presumed dead.

Posted: Sunday, May 28, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) - Two climbers were reported missing Sunday and presumed dead after an avalanche on Mount Foraker in Denali National Park and Preserve.

National Park Service spokeswoman Jane Tranel said another team of climbers witnessed a mass of ice give way and heard screams and shouts at the 8,000-foot level of the mountain at about 1 p.m. Saturday.

The witnesses were not able to notify park rangers until early Sunday morning, due to radio communication difficulties in the area, Tranel said.

The two missing climbers, whose names have not been released, were going up a route known as the Infinite Spur, a steep route of ice and rock.

``It's extremely dangerous,'' Tranel said. ``It's one of those routes that are constantly calving, with pieces of ice and rock falling down.''

Park rangers who flew to the site said they saw an abandoned camp and two sets of footprints leading into the avalanche zone. There was about 100 yards of avalanche debris, but no sign of the climbers.

The two men climbing above the area who witnessed the slide called the base camp at Mount McKinley at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday. The two witnesses were identified as Carl Tobin, 46, of Anchorage and Barry Blanchard, 40, of Alberta, Canada. A total of six climbers were believed to be on the mountain, Tranel said.

Mount Foraker is 15 miles southwest of Mount McKinley. At 17,400 feet, it is the second-highest peak in the Alaska Range.

Weather at the time of the avalanche was clear and calm.

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