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Three Deaths in North America

An injured climber is rescued from 11,500-foot camp on the West Buttress route of Denali (6194m) in 2010. [Photo] Keese Lane

Yesterday, reported a fatality on the West Buttress route of Denali. Unfortunately, that incident was just one of a series of accidents in North America over the last few weeks. As we were posting our report, a second climber died on the mountain. Below is a brief description of that accident and two earlier ones.

Denali, Alaska

On May 16, climbers stationed at the 17,200-foot camp on Denali witnessed Luciano Colombo fall 1,000 feet to his death while descending Denali Pass. On May 12–four days earlier–a Swiss climber died in the same area (an account of that accident can be read here.)

Colombo, age 67 of Italy, was returning after a summit attempt, and was slightly ahead of his other two teammates. The pass he was negotiating has a history of falls, and park rangers encourage climbers to use the fixed protection while descending.

Colombo, however was unroped at the time of the fall. He was unable to self arrest on the 45-degree neve slope. On the day of Colombo’s death, the winds were calm and the sky was clear.

Mt. Rainier, Washington

On Mt. Rainier, Tucker Taffe died on May 11 after falling into a crevasse at 13,180′ on the upper Nisqually Glacier.

Guides from Alpine Ascents International were on scene when climbing rangers arrived and had rappelled into the crevasse, determining that Taffe was dead. Taffe’s body was removed from the crevasse and taken via helicopter from the mountain.

Thirty-three-year-old Tucker Taffe, who was traveling in a party of four, was an experienced skier originally from New York, though he lived and worked in Utah.

Ruth Gorge, Alaska

On April 28, an avalanche in Denali National Park’s Ruth Gorge killed Chris Lackey. Lackey was one of two parties camping on the Ruth Gorge, just south of the Moose’s Tooth (3150m). Their campsite was struck by icefall from a serac that collapsed in the morning. The other four climbers immediately located Lackey, who was unconscious and faintly breathing. The climbers placed a 911 call via satellite phone. The next morning Denali National Park’s high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter and two NPS mountaineering rangers launched a rescue attempt.

When Lackey was loaded into the helicopter and en route to an ambulance stationed at Mile 133 on the Parks Highway, the on-board rangers and paramedics announced that he had died from his injuries. The four remaining climbers, who were uninjured, were evacuated while Lackey’s remains were transported to Talkeeta. Lackey, 39, was a native of Houston, and leaves behind a wife and two children.

CORRECTION: Alpinist previously reported that Taffe “skied into an open crevasse.” This was incorrect, Taffe fell through a snow-bridge while skinning uphill.-ED