Mount McKinley, one of America’s most popular destinations for mountaineering proved deadly for a group of Japanese climbers hailing from Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, when an early morning avalanche struck on the mountain’s West Buttress. According to information released by the National Park Service, the avalanche consumed Yoshiaki Kato, age 64; Masako Suda, age 50; Michiko Suzuki, age 56; and Tamao Suzuki, age 63. The missing individuals were part of the Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation expedition, and were traversing in an area that is particularly prone to avalanche dangers.
The group, which began as a five member team, was descending down Motorcycle Hill at approximately 11,800-feet at 2am when an unexpected mass of snow swept them all downhill into a crevice. They were tied in to a single rope, which broke during the avalanche. Out of the five team members, 69 year old Hitoshi Ogi, was the only one to survive. After the snow settled, he managed to climb out of the crevice with only minor injuries. After searching for his companions unsuccessfully, he descended back to Kahiltna Basecamp at 7,200 feet, where he reported the accident shortly after 4:00 pm.
Two rangers from the National Parks Service flew to the scene via helicopter immediately to conduct an aerial search. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the missing climbers or any of their equipment among the debris. At this time, the four Japanese climbers are presumed dead due to the nature of the incident and the time elapsed.