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Two Killed By Backcountry Avalanche in Denali National Park and Preserve


Two climbers were killed when an avalanche hit them in Ruth Gorge, a popular climbing area on Mount McKinley. NPS file photo of Ruth Gorge.

Two men climbing in the Ruth Gorge area of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve were killed when an avalanche swept down upon them, park officials said Monday.

Canadian Andrew Herzenberg, 39, and Israeli Avner Magen, 42, both current residents of Toronto, Ontario, were descending a steep snow and ice gully wedged between Werewolf Tower and London Tower on the southeast side of the Gorge when the avalanche occurred Saturday.

Another climbing party in the Ruth Gorge witnessed the avalanche. Aware that a team had been climbing in the vicinity and had not returned to their camp, they skied closer to investigate and observed what appeared to be two climbers and gear in the avalanche debris, the park reported.

The witnessing party used a satellite phone to call National Park Service mountaineering rangers at 9:00 p.m. Saturday night. The Talkeetna-based NPS helicopter with two rangers on board flew to the Ruth Gorge and picked up one of the witnesses, who directed them to the debris site. Shortly before 11:00 p.m. Saturday, NPS rangers confirmed that the two men had died in the fall.

Due to the late hour, the helicopter and crew returned to Talkeetna. Both bodies were
recovered Sunday morning.

According to the park's website:

One of the most spectacular features in the park, next to the massiveness of Mount McKinley, is the dramatic "Great Gorge" of the Ruth Glacier. The upper Ruth Glacier, which is almost 3 vertical miles below the summit of Mount McKinley, catches all of the snow that falls on the southeast side of the mountain. The snow and ice that accumulate in this area are squeezed through the one-mile-wide bottleneck of the Great Gorge. Through this gorge, the glacier drops nearly 2,000 feet over ten miles and is raked with crevasses. Buttressed on either side by solid granite cliffs that tower 5,000 feet above the glacier’s surface, this gorge is not only a spectacular sight, but offers world-class challenges for mountaineers.

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