Talkeetna, AK – Denali National Park and Preserve mountaineering rangers began an aerial search for a solo climber on Denali’s West Buttress on Wednesday, May 4. Matthias Rimml, a 35-year-old professional mountain guide from Tirol, Austria, began his ascent from the 7,200-foot Kahiltna Basecamp on Wednesday, April 27.
Already acclimatized to altitude due to recent climbs, the soloist’s strategy was to climb alpine style, or travel fast with relatively light gear. His stated goal was to complete the climb in 5 days, although he was carrying 10 days of food and fuel. His last known satellite phone call to a friend was made Saturday, April 30, at 2:00 PM. At that time, Rimml indicated he was just below Denali Pass, which is located at 18,200 feet elevation on the West Buttress. The soloist reported being tired, but he was not in distress. It is unknown whether he intended to climb higher or return to his camp at 14,000 feet.
The soloist, as the first registered climber to attempt the 20,310-foot peak this season, is alone on the upper mountain. All other teams, including the first NPS ranger patrol, are still camped below 14,000 feet this early in the climbing season.
Rimml is not considered overdue relative to his planned return date and food and fuel supply. However, since his friend had been receiving periodic check-in calls from Rimml, he grew concerned after several days of silence and notified Denali mountaineering rangers the afternoon of May 3. The following day, the NPS helicopter pilot and a mountaineering ranger, already intending to shuttle camp gear to the 14,200-foot basin, flew the route to look for signs of the soloist. Intermittent cloud cover prevented a thorough search of the route, nevertheless they did not see any signs of Rimml. Searchers did observe his tent site at 14,000 feet, however no signs of recent activity were visible around the tent. The helicopter was unable to land to due deteriorating weather and wind.
The NPS helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers continued the aerial search on Thursday, May 5. Favorable weather allowed the helicopter to land at the tent site at 14,000 feet, and rangers confirmed Rimml had not returned to his camp. Clouds on the upper mountain prevented the aerial search team from flying above 17,200 feet.
Temperatures at the upper elevations on Denali have been cold this past week, reaching daytime highs between -25 F and -30 F, as is typical in the early season. Wind speeds above 17,200 feet are unknown, but weather stations at 7,200 and 14,200 feet indicate mild to moderate winds up to 30 mph over the past several days. An estimated 5 inches of new snow have fallen on the upper mountain since Saturday.
Aerial search operations of the upper mountain will continue as weather conditions allow.
Learn more about Denali National Park and Preserve at www.nps.gov/dena, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube or by downloading the free NPS app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.