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Rangers search for first climber of season on Denali

May 6 (UPI) -- Rangers at Denali National Park and Preserve launched a search this week for the first registered climber on the mountain this season after he failed to check in with a friend.

The park said Matthias Rimml, 35, began his ascent of North America's tallest mountain on April 27, leaving from the 7,200-foot Kahlitna Basecamp. He planned to reach the peak of the mountain in five days using an alpine-style method of climbing fast with relatively light gear.

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Rimml was the first registered climber to attempt to climb the 20,310-foot mountain this year and was attempting to do so solo. Other climbers were camped below 14,000 feet this early in the season.

The park said Rimml's last known satellite communication was in a call to a friend Saturday at 2 p.m. The climber told his friend he was just below Denali Pass, about 18,200 feet and was feeling tired but not distressed.

Park rangers said the climber wasn't considered overdue compared to his planned returned date and the 10 days of food and fuel he carried.

"However, since his friend had been receiving periodic check-in calls from Rimml, he grew concerned after several days of silence and notified Denali mountaineering rangers the afternoon of May 3," the park said in a release.

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On Wednesday, a National Park Service helicopter and a mountaineering ranger flew along Rimml's planned route to look for him. They observed his tent at 14,000 feet but saw no visible signs of recent activity. The helicopter returned the next day and again observed no signs Rimml returned to his camp.

The park said clouds on the upper mountain prevented the helicopter from searching at elevations higher than 17,200 feet.

Temperatures at upper elevations on Denali have reached a high of between minus 25 degrees and minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and about 5 inches of snow has fallen on the upper mountain since Saturday.

The park said it would continue search operations as the weather allows.

Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is located about 125 miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska.

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