4 missing climbers presumed dead after avalanche

Four members of a Japanese climbing team are presumed dead after an avalanche swept them off a hill on Mount McKinley.

U.S. National Park Service officials say five people were traveling as one rope team early Thursday morning as part of a Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation expedition.

One team member, 69-year-old Hitoshi Ogi survived. Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said he fell 60 feet into a crevasse and climbed out.

The other four tumbled into the avalanche debris and haven't been seen since. The climbers are presumed dead by either snow burial or injuries suffered in falls

The Park Service says in a news release that nearly 400 mountaineers were making rescue attempts Saturday on the Alaska mountain's West Buttress. Snowfall and wind have impeded the search.

The four missing climbers include 64-year-old Yoshiaki Kato, 50-year-old Masako Suda, 56-year-old Michiko Suzuki, and 63-year-old Tamao Suzuki.

The climbers were attempting the busiest route during the height of mountaineering season. Climbers attempted the West Buttress route on 92 percent of attempts on Mount McKinley in 2011.

Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, is America's tallest peak. While not a particularly tall peak by global standards, its latitude makes for far thinner air than is found in mountains closer to the equator. That, combined with the weather and temperatures, makes it a particularly dangerous climb.

Four people died on the mountain in 2009 and again in 2010. At least five people died in 2011 on Mount McKinley.

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