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Dispatches
by Liesl Clark


Deadly Ascent homepage

A Great Loss

It is difficult to convey the deep sense of loss we all feel today, even those of us who are strangers to both this mountain and some of the people dedicated to making Denali a safer place. Last night, a single-engine Cessna was reported missing, due to bad weather. It was carrying a four-passenger crew of National Park Service patrol members headed for the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,000 feet to replace the patrol that has been at Base Camp for the past month. One National Park Service Ranger, the plane's pilot, and two volunteer rescue mountaineers were on the plane, which was last heard from at 6:30 p.m. last night, heading toward Denali. The weather, reportedly, was marginal.

We waited through the night, knowing our friends at the Park Service tent nearby were on the radio doing what they could to contribute to a search effort. As time passed, we all feared a crash landing, but perhaps there were survivors. A C-130 was launched to 23,000 feet, due to cloud cover and snow at the lower elevations, to try and make radio contact, but no contact was made.

As we hiked out this morning to film scenics from a lookout point called "The Edge of the World," the sad drone of small planes could be heard miles away, plaintively searching in a grid pattern for signs of a downed plane. As the hum of more planes flew in from the distance, we could hear their different pitches chime in, echoing against Alaska's highest peaks, adding their voices to the solemn harmony of a well-organized search and rescue effort.

At 5:00 p.m., nearly 24 hours after the plane was reported missing, we heard the news: the plane has been found and all four passengers are presumed dead.

Time has stopped for those of us camped on the flanks of a mountain that draws so many people for so many different reasons. And the tragedy hits hardest when those that are lost are the very people who come here to save lives—the volunteer doctors and rescue mountaineers, the Park Rangers and the talented glacier pilots who ferry in the crowds longing to stake their claim on this continent's highest ground.

Location: Fourteen Medical
Altitude: 14,200 feet
Air Temp: 0°F
Windspeed: 0 mph

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Denali's peak

Mount Denali

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Dispatches

On the Way (06.01.2000)
One Shot Pass (06.02.2000)
Midnight Rescue (06.04.2000)
Across a Glacier (06.05.2000)
Cold Toes (06.07.2000)
Cloud Walkers (06.09.2000)
Fourteen Medical (06.11.2000)
A Climber Saved (06.13.2000)
Lull Before a Storm (06.15.2000)
Frostbite (06.17.2000)
An Unforgiving Mountain (06.19.2000)
Stopped Short (06.20.2000)
A Great Loss (06.20.2000)
Bid for the Summit (06.23.2000)
Summit Reached (06.24.2000)


E-Mail

Set #1 (06.07.2000)
Set #2 (06.08.2000)
Set #3 (06.11.2000)
Set #4 (06.12.2000)
Set #5 (06.21.2000)


Meet the Team

Pete Athans
Colby Coombs
Dr. Howard Donner
John Grunsfeld
Dr. Peter Hackett
Caitlin Palmer



Liesl Clark directed "Deadly Ascent".



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