Missing mountain climbers may have triggered avalanche near Denali

Two missing mountain climbers may have caused an avalanche near the highest peak in North America, the National Park Service said.

Search and rescue teams are currently searching for Eli Michel, 34, and Nafiun Awal, 32, two hikers who were reported missing on Sunday in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

Officials from the National Park Service said they believe the hikers fell while attempting to climb the Moose’s Tooth, a 10,335 foot peak just 12 miles south of the park’s namesake mountain.

Denali is the tallest mountain in North America, standing at 20,194 ft above sea level in the Alaska Range mountains. Denali National Park encompasses over 6million acres of mostly wilderness. Only a single road runs through the massive park.

Michel and Awal were reported missing on Sunday, after friends became worried after they failed to check in after their climb.

The National Park Service shared photos of the mountaintop, which appears to show boot tracks near the Moose’s Tooth peak – just before the start of an avalanche.

The National Park Service believes the climbers fell into a glacier at the foot of the mountain.

‘The avalanche itself looks to be a comparatively small one in terms of snow volume, so we are not seeing a large debris pile at the base,’ a National Parks spokesperson said.

‘Whatever debris there was, it appears to have been deposited into the various large crevasses on the glacier.’

Park rangers began conducting aerial searches by helicopter, spending over 7.8 hours in the sky.

Meanwhile, search teams on the ground searched the glacier at the foot of the peak, which they described as ‘heavily-crevassed.’

The ground teams found more boot and ski tracks they believe to be from Michel and Awal, but still no sign of the hikers. They did find an unattended tent, two ice axes, and a climbing helmet they believe are owned by the duo.

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