Troopers call off search for Canadian climbers

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2003

PETERSBURG (AP) Alaska State Troopers have called off the search for two Canadian climbers missing on the remote Devil's Thumb north of Petersburg, trooper Chris Umbs said on Tuesday.

Intermittent searches since Saturday had turned up no sign of Guy Edwards and John Millar, Umbs said.

Edwards, 30, and Millar, 24, could still be hunkered down for safety somewhere. Their base camp about a mile from the mountain is largely intact and unoccupied, Umbs said.

But a helicopter pilot indicated that there was evidence of avalanches in the area, according to Umbs.

Edwards and Millar were last seen by a third climber in their party about 2 a.m. on April 14 as they were ascending the 9,077-foot peak on the Alaska-Canada border about 30 miles northeast of Petersburg.

They had taken four to five days' food and gear on April 13 when they departed their base camp intending to complete the first-ever ascent of the north face.

The third member of their team, Kai M. Hirvornen of Vancouver, British Columbia, remained in camp. Weather was poor in the days that followed, Umbs said. When the climbers did not return in time, Hirvornen skied out alone about 20 miles to summon help on Friday.

Searchers were hampered over the weekend and Monday by continuing poor weather, but a helicopter pilot with Hirvornen aboard managed to get through clouds occasionally to search the mountain.

They last searched for about four hours Monday evening, Umbs said. The search was indefinitely suspended at 10 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

The mountain was the site of a fatal climbing accident last summer when a Utah climber fell from a 50-foot ridge near his base camp and was struck by a boulder and other rocks.

Edwards, Millar and Hirvornen are experienced climbers. Edwards has climbed successfully in major mountain ranges around the world, according to the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. In the mid-1990s, he skied 1,250 miles through the Coast Range from Vancouver to Skagway.

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