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Japanese tourist dies while climbing North America’s tallest peak

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X marks the spot where the climber's body was found

A Japanese tourist fell to his death while climbing the highest mountain peak in North America at Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, according to local and federal officials. The tourist was traveling alone.

The investigation began on Sunday when family members reached out to park rangers, saying they had not heard from their relative for several days. The man had previously been in regular contact with his family by using an InReach satellite communicator.

Mountaineering rangers patrolling the upper mountain quickly located the climber’s empty tent at the top of a 16,200-foot ridge. They also spoke with other climbers who reported seeing the victim heading to Denali Pass on Wednesday, May 15.

Meanwhile, rangers were also able to collect data from the climber’s InReach device, which showed it was located at about 17,000 feet on Denali. It further showed that the device had not moved since May 16, suggesting an accident occurred on that day.

“[The climber] is assumed to have fallen from the steep traverse between the mountain’s 17,200-foot High Camp and the 18,200-foot Denali Pass,” the National Park Service said in a statement.

On Monday, when weather cleared on the upper mountain, a mountaineering patrol at the 17,200-foot High Camp was able to use a spotting scope to locate the missing climber. They then went to the site and confirmed the victim was deceased.

The man’s body was recovered by helicopter on Monday night. He was later identified as T. Hagiwara, a man in his mid-40s from Sapporo, a city on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.

Since 1980, at least 14 climbers have died in falls along this treacherous section of the West Buttress route on Denali. The climbing season typically begins in early May and ends in early July, though most climbers stay much lower on the mountain early in the season.

Denali was formerly known as Mount McKinley and has a summit elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) above sea level, making it the highest mountain peak in North America. It’s also one of the tallest mountains in the world from base-to-peak on land.

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