2 Climbers Who Disappeared in Alaska Park Presumed Dead: 'Survival Is Outside the Window of Possibility'

Eli Michel, of Indiana, and Nafiun Awal, of Washington, last made contact with a friend on May 5, according to authorities

National Park Service
National Park Service

Two mountain climbers are presumed dead after disappearing while attempting to summit a 10,300-foot peak in Alaska, according to park officials.

Eli Michel, 34, of Columbia City, Ind., and Nafiun Awal, 32, of Seattle, Wash., began their ascent to a peak known as the Moose's Tooth at Denali National Park and Preserve on May 5, according to a statement from the National Park Service (NPS).

The climbers were last heard from at 5 a.m. local time that day while checking in with a friend on an InReach satellite communication device, the agency said.

At the time, the men said they intended to "climb the West Ridge route of the Moose's Tooth," which the NPS described as "a steep technical route" to the peak.

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Mountaineering rangers found evidence that indicates the climbers "were swept off their feet by a small slab avalanche" Friday evening while "high" on the West Ridge route, the agency said.

By Thursday, search managers determined that "survival is outside the window of possibility" for the missing men, according to the NPS. The search has now been scaled back.

The search for Eli and Nafiun began Sunday, the same day a "concerned" friend told officials that they had not returned as expected, nor had they checked back in via InReach.

Crews conducting an initial search of the area located the duo's "unattended" tent, and later found boot tracks that led to the location of "a recent small slab avalanche."

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"Several pieces of the climber's equipment were also sighted along the 3,200-foot fall line, including two ice axes and a climbing helmet," the NPS said.

The NPS said the climbers were only equipped with supplies that for a single day in the wilderness. Their friend said the men planned to climb the route "in a single, long push."

As a result, the men reportedly "did not take overnight gear, nor likely more than a day's supply of food, water, and fuel."

An aerial search "for signs of the two missing climbers" will continue for the next several months as temperatures rise," the NPS said.

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