Park service identifies McKinley climber who died in fall

Posted: Tuesday, July 02, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A climber who fell to his death early Sunday on Mount McKinley has been identified as a 61-year-old Canadian man.

Michael Heck of Whitevale, Ontario, was on a solo climb when he fell to his death just after midnight Sunday. Park officials believe Heck had reached the summit and was descending.

Heck fell about 1,000 feet from the 18,000-foot level on Denali Pass.

Inclement weather has prevented the park service from recovering the body.

Climbers and a National Park Service ranger at a 17,200-foot camp witnessed the fall and tried to help Heck.

The fatality was the first on the 20,320-foot mountain this year, and the first since 1998. Mount McKinley is North America's highest mountain.

Park spokesman Doug Stockdale said the area where Heck fell is a treacherous stretch of the West Buttress route used by most climbers. The stretch is icy and has a slope of up to 45 degrees. Since 1980, six climbers have died there, he said.

Stockdale said 1,231 climbers registered to climb Mount McKinley this year and 183 remain on the mountain.

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