Ground Search Called Off
No Signs of Volunteer Rescuer

Thursday, May 28, 1998

The ground search for volunteer rescue ranger Mike Vanderbeek was called off after three days of searching have yielded no clues. Vanderbeek was last seen Sunday at approximately 4 p.m. while searching for a climber who was later found dead.

"This incident is especially painful (because) it is one of our own," park Superintendent Stephen P. Martin said.

Weather over the last few days has sporadically interrupted the search, but ground crews yesterday fixed 1,800 feet of line and descended into the area Vanderbeek was believed to have fallen.

South District Ranger JD Swed said yesterday that some climbing equipment was found, but there was no sign of the Talkeetna, Alaska man.

"These rescuers have made a tremendous search effort," he said. A helicopter also made three passes over the area Tuesday night, also to no avail. The air search will continue as weather permits, the National Park Service reported.

Over the last few days, the search has consisted of 20 park service personnel, 11 volunteers and seven "emergency hires." The air crew has logged 18 hours of search time.

Weather Impeding Search
Volunteer Rescuer Still Missing, Third Climber Falls

Wednesday, May 27, 1998

Denali summit ridge
[Click to zoom]
(photo: Kaj Bune)
Talkeetna, Alaska-- The search for a volunteer ranger who apparently fell while trying to rescue a climber Sunday, is continuing today after severe weather last night again forced rescuers to seek shelter in snow caves.

Mike Vanderbeek, 33, of Talkeetna, one of two volunteeers assisting park rangers in the search for Daniel Raworth, 25, of Whistler BC, Canada, disappeared at 4 p.m. Sunday. Vanderbeek's pack was found late that night near the body of Raworth, who had fallen two hours earlier in an area known as Washburn's Thumb.

Late yesterday, according to the National Park Service, six rescuers were able to start setting 1,800 feet of fixed line from an elevation of 16,000 feet. Rescuers will then be able to be secured to this rope while they search the area in which Vanderbeek was last seen. Weather though has continually hampered the rescue efforts and last night, whiteout conditions and winds gusting to 60 mph again forced rescuers to seek shelter. The air search has been delayed since early yesterday morning.

Vanderbeek was last seen by a fellow volunteer ranger at 15,700 feet while descending a steep slope on the West Buttress Route of Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley.

In a second, unrelated rescue, rangers at the 14,200 camp received news at 2:30 p.m. yesterday that a climber at 15,500 feet had slid 300 feet down a slope while descending an area known as the Rescue Gully. Six National Park Service and volunteer rangers were able to climb to the site and rescue 29-year-old John Sides of Australia.

Sides and two climbing partners, the Park Service reported, were descending the slope when he slid and then fell 50ft. into a crevasse, landing on a ledge.

"He was very lucky to have landed on the ice ledge because the crevasse was basically a bottomless pit," Ranger Daryl Miller, who coordinated the rescue, said.

Sides was stabilized at the 14,200 medical camp on the mountain before being flown by helicopter to the Kahiltna Base Camp at 7,200 feet and then transfeered by a National Guard helicopter to Anchorage Regional Hospital.

Sides was listed in stable condition today with the life-threatening pneumothorax, a wound which allows air to enter the chest and severely inhibits breathing, and rib injuries, the Park Service reported.

Double Tragedy on Denali
Climber Dead, Rescuer Missing

Tuesday, May 26, 1998

Denali viewed from Talkeetna, Alaska
[Click to zoom]
(photo: Colby Coombs)
Talkeetna, Alaska-- A British Columbia man died Sunday afternoon while descending Denali and a volunteer mountaineer apparently fell and remains missing after attempting a rescue.

Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Raworth of Whistler, BC, Canada was killed around 2 p.m. Sunday when he fell while descending on the West Buttress route. The area in which he fell, known as "Washburn's Thumb," is at 16,500 feet, and drops off sharply to the Peter's Glacier 1,500 feet below.

According to the National Park Service, volunteer mountaineering rangers were notified and descended to the accident scene but were hampered by whiteout conditions and winds of 50mph gusting to 60-80 mph. At approximately 4 p.m., volunteer ranger Mike Vanderbeek, 33, of Talkeetna, Alaska, was descending at 15,700 feet when he fell and disappeared.

Rangers found the body of Raworth at 11 p.m. Sunday and while Vanderbeek's pack was found 20 feet from the body, there has been no other sign of him.

National Park spokeswoman Kris Fister said Tuesday afternoon that weather continues to delay the air search, but that six mountaineers spent Monday night in a snowcamp at 16,000 feet and were fixing about 1200 feet of rope in order to reach Raworth's body and search more extensively for signs of Vanderbeek.

Fister said the air search would resume as soon as conditiones bettered and the forecast called for clearing by late Tuesday afternoon.

Vanderbeek, one of two volunteers assisting the National Park Service in this attempt, had extensive climbing experience on Denali and first volunteereed there in 1996.

Sarah Love, Mountain Zone Staff

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