Remains of missing Japanese climbers found on McKinley

Posted: Sunday, June 07, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Searchers have found the frozen bodies of two Japanese climbers who disappeared last year on Alaska's Mount McKinley, thanks to high-resolution images captured during a recent search for another missing climber, National Park officials said Friday.

The bodies of 27-year-old Tatsuro Yamada of Saitama-Ken, Japan, and 24-year-old Yuto Inoue of Tokyo were found connected by a rope at the 19,800-foot level of the 20,320-foot mountain, North America's tallest peak.

The two vanished May 22, 2008, during a summit attempt by way of the Cassin Ridge of the mountain, which is located in Denali National Park and Preserve. The bodies were located in a steep rocky area west of the ridge.

Park spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said the photographs were taken during the search last month of 41-year-old Gerald Myers, a chiropractor from Centennial, Colo.

Myers was last seen May 19 after he left his climbing partners at 14,200 feet to make a solo attempt to summit McKinley. His body has not been found.

In last year's search for the Japanese climbers, crews took more than 3,000 photos of the mountain. The images helped find tracks and other markings, but not the climbers.

In the search for Myers, a more advanced camera with a higher powered lens was among several used to take thousands of images, McLaughlin said.

Photographs from the advanced equipment of McKinley's upper west face were analyzed May 24 and showed what appeared to be two partially buried figures.

Searchers the next day hovered near the area by helicopter. Park spokeswoman Kris Fister said the bodies were identified by the clothing, equipment and area.

"There have been no other missing climbers in that part of the terrain," she said.

Asked why it took so long to make the discovery public, McLaughlin said the park's first priority was looking for Myers because searchers were still hoping to find him alive. Park officials also spent time making sure they had located the Japanese climbers as believed.

McLaughlin said the bodies will not be recovered because of the risk involved in the location.

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