Two alumni lost on Alaska hike: Hane '89, Drake '90 have been missing on mountain for 23 days
Two mountaineers, Joshua Hane '89 Chuck Drake '90, are missing and without a tent or sleeping bag on 14,570-foot Mount Hunter in Alaska's Denali National Park.
The pair was attempting an ascent on a route which has never been successfully climbed.
By helicopter, plane and foot, rescuers have been searching for the mountaineers since the two failed to return as scheduled to the Kahiltna Base Camp on Thursday morning from what was expected to be a four-day climb, according to an article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
But the search has been hindered by rain, snow flurries and white-out conditions, which shut down the effort altogether Thursday afternoon. Fair weather Sunday morning allowed the park service to use a high altitude helicopter and a fixed-wing plane to scan the icy mountainside.
Three teams of rangers were dispatched with telescopes to try and spot the climbers. Too much snow has fallen for tracks to be visible.
As of yesterday, park rangers have found only the spot where the climbers stored their skis on their way up the mountain, according to a Daily News-Miner article. But, both park rangers and friends of Hane and Drake remain optimistic that the climber's are still alive, waiting in a snow cave until conditions clear up.
Despite the inclement weather, the temperature on the mountain has been in the 20s, which is considered balmy for the region. Under these conditions, mountaineers familiar with the area said Hane and Drake could still be alive.
"Someone of Josh's experience may very well be holed up in a cozy snow cave somewhere, eating Power Bars," said Jon Underwood '86, a friend of Hane's, in a e-mail forwarded to the Dartmouth.
Jack Kline '88, who has been climbing with Hane for ten years, said from his home in California, "there's still a good chance they're alive. With a small snow cave they'll be able to keep a little warmer, and last a lot longer than they would be able to on the surface."
Burrowing into the snow protects climbers from harsh winds and insulates their body heat, Kline said.
According to the Daily News-Miner article, the duo had told rangers they planned to climb "light and fast."
Apparently confident of their abilities to make a quick climb with little equipment, they were carrying only four days of food and supplies and bivvy sacks, choosing to leave a tent and sleeping bags behind.
The two climbers have been in the Alaska Range since June 7 and had climbed to the 17,000-foot base camp on neighboring Mt. McKinley to ready themselves for the Mount Hunter expedition.
Hane is the more experienced of the two climbers, according to the Daily News-Miner article. In 1994, Hane attempted ascents of both Mount Hunter and nearby Mount McKinley but failed to reach the summit of either.
Drake's climbing experience includes reaching the summit of Washington's Mt. Rainier in 1995. This was his first climb in the Alaska Range.
According to the Daily News-Miner article, bad weather over the weekend forced the park service to concentrate on a ground search. There are two pairs of rangers stationed in a glacier basin about halfway along the route Hane and Drake were climbing, scoping the
route the climbers intended to take up and down the mountain.
Two more rangers were dispatched Sunday to a glacier basin south of the west ridge to look for any sign that the climbers came down a different route because of poor conditions or because they got disoriented in a storm, according to the Daily News-Miner article.
Guidebooks rank Mt. Hunter as one of the most difficult climbs among peaks of its size in North America. The mountain incorporates three summits, North Peak at 14,570 feet, Central Peak at 13,450 feet and South Peak at 13,966 feet.
Thornton Kline '88 said in an e-mail, he was confident of the climber's facility. "This is a steep and difficult route, but Josh and Chuck are in excellent condition," he said. "It's well within their capabilities"