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Woman Dies In 1,000ft Fall On Mount McKinley
A doctor has plunged 1,000ft to her death on North America's tallest mountain after becoming separated from her climbing partner in bad weather.
Sylvia Montag had been climbing Alaska's Mount McKinley when she fell while descending the treacherous Denali Pass - a steep, hard-packed, icy stretch of mountain which has claimed several lives.
The 39-year-old, of Tacoma, Washington state, who was climbing with Mike Fuchs, had been posting audio and written accounts of their early season attempt to climb the 20,322ft (6,195-metre) peak.
Although an experienced high-altitude climber, Ms Montag had not attempted an ascent of Mount McKinley before, according to National Park Service spokesman Maureen Gualtieri.
The pair began their climb on Muldrow Glacier on April 15.
On Saturday, the climbers reached Denali Pass at 18,000ft, where they encountered winds of at least 50mph that forced them to camp for two nights.
When the storm subsided slightly on Monday, they attempted to descend to a more established campsite around 1,000ft below.
Ms Gualtieri said: "Spending a few nights at high altitude like they did would definitely weaken someone.
"They were quite fatigued when they were coming down and that may have contributed to the fall."
It was on reaching the lower camp that Mr Fuchs realised Ms Montag was not behind him.
Using a satellite phone, the 34-year-old, who lives in Berlin, called for help, hoping she had returned to their previous campsite.
Her body was spotted by a helicopter crew when the strong winds weakened.
Mr Fuchs was taken off the mountain by rescuers a short time later, while Ms Montag's body will be recovered by park service workers.
The pair did not have radio contact with each other and were not roped together - a measure the park service suggests climbers take but that carries risks of its own, as one person falling can take the others with them.
Since 1980, 12 climbers have fallen to their deaths on the steep Denali Pass, 11 of them while descending.
Ms Gualtieri said: "It can be icy in spots but (it is) generally hard-packed snow and not very forgiving.
"It tends to be an area where once one loses one's footing, it's difficult to self-arrest and stop that fall, so you keep falling,"
In total, 122 climbers have died on Mount McKinley since 1932.