Andre Callari, 05-16-07
Brian Postlethwait

Two more climbers plunge to death in Alaska Range

Two more climbers died in Denali National Park and Preserve this week after an avalanche swept them off Mount Barrille in the Ruth Gorge, according to the National Park Service.

Maureen McLaughlin, a park spokeswoman, said the avalanche took the lives of Andre Callari, 33, of Salt Lake City, and Brian Postlethwait, 32, of Park City, Utah.

The avalanche toward the top of the 7,650-foot mountain struck early Wednesday morning as the pair traveled through a steep section of ice and snow, McLaughlin said.

The two climbers were attempting the Japanese Couloir route on the peak's east face.

"They fell quite a bit of vertical distance, we estimate between 1,500 and 2,000 feet," said Daryl Miller, lead ranger for mountaineering operations at the park.

Callari and Postlethwait had not been seen since Tuesday evening, when they started their climb on what the Park Service described as one of the more frequently climbed peaks in the Ruth Gorge.

Another climbing party reported Thursday afternoon that the pair was overdue and their abandoned skies were found. White-out conditions inhibited a search, but searchers on Friday evening spotted what appeared to be bodies in avalanche debris at the base of the peak.

The bodies were picked up Saturday and flown to Talkeetna, the Park Service said.

The deaths bring to four the number of climbers killed in the park in the past week. Two climbers from Washington, Mizuki Takahashi and Brian Massey, died after falling nearly 2,000 feet while descending Mount McKinley on Thursday. Their bodies were also lifted off McKinley on Saturday.

A fifth climber, Lara-Karena Kellogg, 38, of Seattle, died on another Ruth Glacier mountain last month. She fell to her death on Mount Wake while climbing with a partner.

The Denali Park climbing season, which generally begins in March, is about half over.

Three climbers died in the park last year, McLaughlin said.

The park's deadliest season came in 1992 when 13 climbers died, including 11 on Mount McKinley, McLaughlin said.