CAIC: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

2021/05/13 - Alaska - Ruth Glacier, Denali National Park and Preserve

Published 2021/05/25 by Spencer Logan - Forecaster, CAIC

Avalanche Details

  • Location: Ruth Glacier, Denali National Park and Preserve
  • State: Alaska
  • Date: 2021/05/13
  • Time: 5:00 AM (Estimated)
  • Summary Description: 2 climbers caught in serac fall, 1 killed
  • Primary Activity: Climber
  • Primary Travel Mode: Foot


  • Caught: 2
  • Fully Buried: 0
  • Injured: 1
  • Killed: 1


  • Type: I
  • Trigger: N - Natural
  • Trigger (subcode): --
  • Size - Relative to Path: --
  • Size - Destructive Force: --
  • Sliding Surface: --


  • Slope Aspect: --
  • Site Elevation: --
  • Slope Angle: --
  • Slope Characteristic: --

Accident Summary

PRELIMINARY: One climber was killed and another injured in Denali National Park and Preserve the morning of Thursday, May 13.  A hanging serac, or block of glacier ice, dislodged from a peak off the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier. Debris and ice hit the two-person rope team as they began their climb of the west face of Reality Ridge at approximately 5:00 AM.

The surviving climber, 31-year-old male from Logan, Utah, was knocked unconscious by the impact.  When he regained consciousness, he located his partner and determined that the 32-year-old male from Rigby, Idaho had died in the accident.  The surviving climber then alerted park officials using an InReach satellite communication device at approximately 6:00 AM.  Despite significant injuries, the surviving climber managed to move to a location outside of the debris zone to await rescue.

Denali National Park’s high altitude helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers flew to the accident site just past 7:00 AM.  The rangers evacuated the injured climber to a safer location on the Ruth Glacier where they provided emergency medical treatment before returning to Talkeetna State Airport.  The patient was transferred to an air ambulance for further medical care. The helicopter pilot and two mountaineering rangers attempted to return to the accident site midday Thursday, however clouds had moved into the area.  Mountaineering rangers returned to the site Friday, May 14 and recovered the climber’s remains via short-haul.

NPS Field Report