Two fall, one dies in Ruth Gorge climbing accident

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A two-person team fell approximately 1,000 feet while climbing Mt. Johnson, an 8,400-foot peak located in Denali National Park and Preserve’s Ruth Gorge, on the night of Thursday, April 25. One of the climbers died in the fall, while the other sustained serious traumatic injuries.   

The roped climbers were ascending a route on Mt. Johnson known as “the Escalator,” a steep and technical alpine climb on the peak’s southeast face, the National Park Service said. The approximately 5,000-foot route involves navigating a mix of steep rock, ice, and snow.  

Update: The person who died was Robbi Mecus. According to Emily Russell of NCPR public broadcasting, “She was beloved in the Adirondacks and has been a role model in the queer and outdoor community here [in the Adirondacks.] Public broadcasting reports, “Mecus was a leader among forest rangers in the Adirondacks, serving as a ranger since 1999. She was part of hundreds of searches and rescues over her career…”

The fall was witnessed by another climbing party on the route, who alerted the Alaska Regional Communication Center at approximately 10:45 p.m. The reporting party then descended to the accident victims and confirmed one climber had died in the fall. The responders dug a snow cave and attended to the surviving climber’s injuries throughout the night.  

At 7 a.m. Friday morning, the park’s high altitude rescue helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers launched from Talkeetna. After an initial reconnaissance flight of the accident zone, a mountaineering ranger was short-hauled via long line to the awaiting climbers.

Together, the ranger and injured patient were short-hauled out to a flat glacier staging area, and then loaded into the helicopter for the flight to Talkeetna. The patient was transferred to a LifeMed air ambulance at the Talkeetna State Airport for further care. 

Later that morning, the park helicopter and two rangers returned to the accident site to recover the body of the deceased climber, however they were turned back due to deteriorating weather and increasing cloud cover. Park rangers will return to the site when weather conditions allow. 

The identity of the deceased climber is being withheld until family members are notified. 

28 COMMENTS

    • I don’t get it either. I listened to a guy talk one time about being with a group in a bad skiing situation in an avalanche area. He was so excited talking about how close they came to dying that he was almost spitting as he told his story. Apparently it’s sort of an adrenaline high which resembles taking a drug. I’ve been in dangerous situations that were not my fault but I certainly wouldn’t do it on purpose.

    • I actually do. It’s a way to challenge yourself physically and mentally. The rewards are to accomplish things most can’t and would never try. It’s certainly not for everyone.

      It has the added bonus of getting away from the idiots of society.

      People who do this accept the risks involved.

      For serious climbers it’s not a bad way to go. Living your passion. It harder than hell on the families, however.

      • Do these people take out rescue insurance policies? Or just let taxpayers pick up the tab for their mistakes?

        • It’s been a good long time, but I believe (big word, room to be wrong) most guided expeditions have an insurance of some sort built in.

          Solo climbers, I believe it’s driven by the permitting agency.

          Truth is, if someone gets in genuine trouble on the mountain there is no one who can help you.
          Other climbers will do what they can, if they can, but there’s only so much. You’re likely gonna die alone, often and unrecovered.

          Part of why serious climbers train and train and train.

      • People either get it, or they don’t.

        It’s not about “almost dying” and it truly can’t be explained.

      • Going on an Everest expedition costs between $75K and $200K. Gear, preparation, travel, and guiding. Only about 10% and 20% get to the summit…..and that’s on a good weather climb. If you get stuck in traffic at the highest col, you have a 50% chance of dying if sudden unexpected weather closes in. And, past the death zone, you have a 20 to 30% chance of dying do to oxygen depletion. And, you have a 15% to 25% chance of losing your fingers, toes, nose and ears due to extreme frostbite.
        Yet, there is no shortage of climbers taking that risk to the planet’s highest point. And to walk past dozens and dozens of dead bodies along the path.

        • WilliamM knows the score. All of those dead bodies laying frozen in the snow, propped up, staring at you…….as if to say…..welcome fools……to the most hostile place on the planet. If you die up here, you aren’t going home.

    • Like Sarah Palin says, a ship is safe in its harbor, but that is not the purpose of a ship.

      A sled dog is safe sleeping on a couch, but that is not the purpose of a sled dog.

      A mountaineer adventurer is safe on his couch watching TV …

  1. My condolences to the survivors; family and loved ones, on this tragic event. May their memories be that of resting in peace. My sister died in a climbing accident on Mt Marcus Baker in the late 80s. Still painful to remember.

  2. Rescuing that guy takes a serious bit of skill and risk taking. Hats off to the rescue team and chopper pilot. BTW, who pays to get the survivor and the deceased off the mountain?

  3. Just a few years ago I was alittle bit of a risk taker myself but curtailed most of those activities till my children were raised. let’s pray they didn’t leave any dependants. MA is correct. You never feel more alive than when things get a little sketchy ;- )

  4. One of the best resources I’ve ever seen to help non climbers understand the risks, rewards, and motivations to climb is Jon Krakhaurs Into Thin Air.

  5. If I’d had the chance before the kids came, I’d have tried it. Provided the conditions were optimal.
    But having children to raise tempers some things.

  6. It galls me to see these irresponsible fools held up as heroes. They are not heroes. Ben Carson is a hero. Thomas Sowell is a hero. Fredrick Douglas was a hero. The roll is too long to recite here, but these rich but foolish souls would not be included. Enough.

    • This opinion by CitizenKane smacks of a lack of knowledge, or cynicism. Possibly, it is a knowledge deficit about the folks in these kinds of communities. My sister volunteered in ski patrol, search & rescue, and other skilled sport safety associations while alive, and was involved in many, many other civic activities while maintaining a grueling heavy-duty training schedule, day-job –UAA associate professor, AK State biologist, and side-job work opportunities to provide the necessary funds for her survival gear. It strikes me that perhaps, the view expressed by CitizenKane is that of the wealthy Victorian gallivanting adventurer. Sure, those types exist, the kind of people that pay people to take them and their expensive firearms wild boar hunting … to exhibit the animal’s exterior organs ornately on their property. It’s inconceivable of me to actually compare the merits of the lifetime achievement of Edmund Hillary with those folks you mention, and it would be erroneous to suggest that all climbers and extreme-sports aficionados are simply rich and foolish. By the way, for reference, “the base of Denali is situated on land with its base situated at an elevation of 2,000 feet, and its summits only about 9,000 feet below Everest’s, according to the National Park Service. This makes Denali roughly 3,000 feet taller than Everest, when measured from base to peak.”

      I was extremely proud of my sister. In her short life –she died in her late 20s; she lived a life that very few ever experience, could ever experience in 80 years. And, she was very proud to have been an Alaskan achieving all those goals. Her death as the result of an act of nature devastated our family for years to come, and we always comforted ourselves that ‘she died pursuing something she loved’ but small comfort in those early years after she’d gone.

      And, this is all I have to say about it.

  7. Spend a life making bad decisions, you eventually pay the price. Really, is this even newsworthy??? i think not.

  8. Edmund Hillary’s greatest accomplishment was his bee keeping. Climbing Everest was and still is without merit. Many of my brothers died in their late teens , fighting the criminals we call communists and muslims. They died as hero’s, trying to make the world a safer place, not as psychotic attention seeking narcissists. Furthermore Mrs N, if you believe Mr. Hillary accomplished more than Dr. Ben Carson, you may just be psychotic yourself. Do you even know who Fredrick Douglas and Thomas Sowell are?

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