Three climbers rescued from top of Mount McKinley

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Tue Jun 7, 2011 10:15pm EDT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Three climbers in distress have been plucked from near the peak of Mount McKinley in separate helicopter rescues, the National Park Service said on Tuesday.

The climbers, two Japanese and a Serb, were each discovered on Monday night by park rangers descending from McKinley's 20,320-foot summit, officials said.

The first climber, 37-year-old Zeljko Dulic of Serbia, was spotted staggering near the 19,300-foot level. When patrollers reached him, he collapsed, the Park Service said.

He was placed into a special "screamer suit" safety harness attached to a line dangling from a helicopter and carried off to a lower elevation, the Park Service said.

While patrollers were tending to Dulic, 22-year-old Sho Tamagawa of Japan approached them and collapsed, the Park Service said, and was carried down the mountain in a second short-haul helicopter flight.

Patrollers found the third climber, 20-year-old Masaaki Kobayasi of Japan, incapacitated and semi-conscious at the 18,700-foot level, the Park Service said. He was moved in the third short-haul flight of the night.

"It all, in the scheme of things, happened quite quickly," said Maureen McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Denali National Park, site of McKinley.

Tamagawa and Kobayasi, who were taken to area hospitals, were members of the same seven-person expedition but were traveling on their own, McLaughlin said.

Dulic, who refused further medical treatment, was part of a four-person expedition but was also traveling solo while his partners remained at lower elevations, she said.

The climbing season on McKinley, North America's tallest peak, generally runs from late April to early July. About 1,200 to 1,300 climbers attempt the peak each year.

So far this year, four people have died on McKinley in falls or other accidents, and three others climbers have died on nearby mountains.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)

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