Climbers safe after Mount Foraker avalanche

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two mountain climbers feared lost in a Saturday avalanche on Mount Foraker are safe and apparently undaunted by their close call.

Jane Tranel, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said Monday that the two men are not only uninjured, they are also continuing their climb up the 17,400-foot peak.

The pair were identified as Glen Deal, 21, of Bozeman, Mont., and Gren Hinton, 22, of Melbourne, Australia.

Tranel said the powerful avalanche apparently roared right past the climbers as they were making their way up the steep and icy climbing route known as the ''Infinite Spur.''

Foraker, the nation's sixth-highest mountain, is in the Alaska Range about 15 miles southwest of 20,320-foot Mount McKinley.

The Infinite Spur is perhaps Foraker's most difficult route, said Roger Robinson, a park service mountaineering ranger based in Talkeetna.

''It's because of the length of technical difficulty,'' he said Monday. ''There's a lot of really hard, really technical climbing over many days.''

The route features three sections of nearly vertical ice and rock, and more than a dozen sections where the slope is greater than 45 degrees.

Robinson said Deal and Hinton were attempting to become the third or fourth team to ever ascend via the Infinite Spur, which was first climbed in 1977.

Foraker is known as a mountain prone to avalanche, and the past winter dumped more than the usual amount of snow.

''It's had a lot of folks who've had close calls or been swept away over the years,'' Robinson said.

On Saturday, Deal and Hinton were at about 8,500 feet on the route when the avalanche occurred at 1 p.m. Two climbers higher up the mountain reported hearing shouts below.

A search on Sunday in poor lighting conditions didn't find the climbers, but did locate their abandoned basecamp and their tracks, Tranel said. Those tracks were covered by deep avalanche debris.

''After we searched all day Sunday, we were fearing the worst,'' she said from Denali National Park and Preserve.

Tranel said Anchorage climber Carl Tobin, who heard their shouts during the snowslide, noticed on Sunday night that Deal and Hinton were camping farther down the mountain.

Tobin called his wife on a wireless phone, and she in turn called the park service, Tranel said.

A high-altitude Lama helicopter sent up early Monday spotted Deal and Hinton making their way up Foraker.

They had reached the 10,500-foot level as of mid-morning Monday, she said.

The men have been in the Alaska Range since May 8, she said. Their expedition, self-dubbed ''G&G Assault'', and Tobin's two-man team are the only climbers currently on the mountain, Tranel said.

A total of 56 people signed up to climb Foraker this season, and to date eight have reached its summit, according to the park service.

Reporter T.A. Badger can be reached at tbadgerap.org.



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