Suzanne Allen 2011-05-25
Peter Bullard

2 more climbers dead, 2 hurt in Denali fall

By MIKE CAMPBELL,, Published: May 26th, 2011
Suzanne Allen
The high-altitude killing fields of the Alaska Range claimed two more climbers Wednesday night, when a four-climber rope team suffered a catastrophic fall just before midnight at Denali Pass on Mount McKinley.

Two surviving climbers were flown to an area hospital with critical injuries on Thursday.

Neither the names nor the nationalities of the dead or injured were released. Unknown, too, are details of what precisely happened at about 18,000 feet as the team negotiated a 45-degree slope of very hard and windblown snow.

The incident happened in the same area of Denali Pass where unroped Italian climber Luciano Colombo, 67, slipped while making a steep traverse about a week ago, falling 1,000 feet to his death.

Mountaineers at McKinley's 17,200-foot high camp witnessed the four-person rope team fall near 18,000 feet about 11 p.m. Wednesday.

After an emergency phone call, Air National Guard pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron responded and confirmed two deaths.

Survivors were placed in rescue litters and lowered to the 17,200-foot high camp for emergency treatment. One patient was responsive and in stable condition with a broken leg and an unspecified head injury. The other climber was not responsive and struggled with labored breathing.

Air National Guard medics at high camp worked throughout the night to maintain the patient's airway, according to National Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin.

At 4:15 a.m. Thursday, Denali National Park's high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter flew to the camp and evacuated each patient separately. They were flown to the 7,200-foot base camp on Kahiltna Glacier, where two LifeMed air ambulances were waiting to fly the climbers off McKinley to the hospital.

Weather at the time of the accident was clear with relatively calm winds, much as it was when Colombo fell 1,000 feet. The four-person rope team was beginning the traverse from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot camp.

The deaths increase the number of Alaska Range climbing fatalities this season to seven -- short of the 13 that died during the range's deadliest climbing season of 1992, when 13 perished, including 11 on Mount McKinley.

Reach reporter Mike Campbell at or 257-4329.

Guide identified as one of the fatalities on Mount McKinley
RARE OCCURRENCE: Other victim was from Shanghai, China.

By BETH BRAGG,, Published: May 27th, 2011

A mountaineering guide from Seattle was one of two people killed on Mount McKinley this week, marking only the third time in history a guide leading clients on North America's tallest peak has died while on a climb.

Suzanne Allen of Alpine Ascents, a Seattle-based guiding company that has taken clients to Denali for more than two decades, was killed in a fall late Wednesday night while attempting to traverse Denali Pass, the National Park Service said Friday.

Allen, 34, and three others were roped together when they fell.

Also killed was Peter Bullard, 45, of Shanghai, China.

Two others were injured -- Gary Burke, 31, of Dallas, Texas, and James Mohr, 30, of Camp Pendleton, Calif. Burke is reportedly in stable condition with a broken leg and head injury; Mohr is non-responsive, parks spokeswoman Kris Fister said.

Details of the fall, which happened around 18,000 feet on a 45-degree pitch, remain unknown.

"We would like to speak with Mr. Burke, who is the only person who can give us more information," Fister said.

Guides rarely die on the 20,320-foot McKinley. Since record-keeping began in 1932, only three have died while leading groups of paying customers, according to park service records. Terrance "Mugs" Stump, one of mountaineering's most famous climbers, died on McKinley in 1992 and Chris Hooyman died on a 1998 climb.

Bullard is the 10th climber in history to die while on a guided McKinley expedition, and the second this year. Last year, 38 percent of the 1,222 people who made an attempt at scaling McKinley were either guides or clients on a guided trip, Fister said. The rest of the fatalities occurred on unguided trips.

Allen's team originally had seven members, including another guide. The other guide and two of the clients had already descended by the time of Wednesday night's fall, the park service said.

Allen was in her seventh or eight year with Alpine Ascents, said Gordon Janow, director of programs for the company, whose lineup of guides includes legend Vern Tejas. Her bio on the company website says she summited McKinley three times as a guide.

"She was a stellar guide from Day One," Janow said. "She was very education-oriented. She was teaching constantly what she knew about the mountains."

Janow said Allen is the first U.S.-based guide to die while working for Alpine Ascents, which according to its website has other teams currently on McKinley, including one led by Tejas.

"It's very difficult," Janow said, "but we all understand what it's like to love something so much you want to be involved in it, even if it comes with risks."

The deaths of Allen and Bullard bring to 112 the number of people who have died on Denali since 1932. So far this season, seven climbers have died in the Alaska Range, including four on McKinley.