Climber who died near the top of Denali, North America’s tallest mountain identified

A Malaysian climber likely died of exposure and altitude-related illness earlier this week after sheltering for days in a snow cave with minimal survival gear near the top of Denali, North America’s tallest mountain in Alaska, park officials said Saturday.

Zulkifli Bin Yusof, 36, likely died Wednesday in a 19,600 foot elevation cave in Denali National Park and Preserve, park spokesman Paul Ollig said Saturday. The National Park Service recovered his body Friday night, Ollig said.

Yusof was part of a three-man climbing team, all of whom listed their address as the Alpine Club of Malaysia in Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, according to Ollig. Yusof’s two partners survived. The climbers put out a distress call On Tuesday suggesting they were hypothermic and unable to descend on their own, according to the National Park Service.

Denali park rangers communicated with the group of climbers for several hours through a portable device that uses satellite to send messages. It also has a GPS system that allows recipients to see its location.

Denali Climbers Rescue
Sightseeing buses and tourists are seen at a pullout popular for taking in views of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, Aug. 26, 2016.

Becky Bohrer / AP

One of the men, a 48-year-old, was rescued Tuesday night after descending to a 17,200-foot camp. He was described by the park as having severe frostbite and hypothermia. Rescue teams then made attempts to reach the others but couldn’t reach the stranded climbers due to high winds and clouds, although at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, a park high-altitude helicopter pilot dropped “a duffle bag of survival gear” near the climbers’ location.

As weather conditions improved, rescue teams made another attempt at 6:00 a.m. on Friday and favorable wind conditions allowed them to drop a short haul basket. 

The climber rescued Friday was medevaced to an Anchorage hospital for additional care and “was in surprisingly strong condition, walking on his own even, considering what he endured,” Ollig previously said. The climber’s name and additional information about him and the other survivor would not be released by the park. The other climber is also recovering at a hospital.

Two of the three men had previous experience on Denali, Ollig said. All three had previously climbed other high-elevation mountains, he said.

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