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Three young Japanese climbers have apparently died soon after reaching the 20,320 foot summit of Mt. McKinley...

13 Jul


Three young Japanese climbers have apparently died soon after reaching the 20,320 foot summit of Mt. McKinley.

The captain of the five member all-woman team was airlifted to Anchorage with an injured companion Wednesday afternoon. She reported that she had no contact from the missing climbers since June 29.

SEPARATED from their basecamp for nearly two weeks, there is little hope that the women will be found alive. The climbers would not have taken much food or shelter on their final assault on the mountain's summit. A search for the trio by other climbers on the mountain has begun.

Michiko Sekita of Tokyo, the 32-year-old leader of the expedition, arrived in Anchorage aboard an Army helicopter after she and Matsuko Inoue were lifted from the 9,500 foot level of the mountain. Bush pilot Don Sheldon spotted the work "sick" stamped in the snow near their camp, and contacted the Rescue Coordination...


...weather still remained clear and she believed the party had reached the summit and had possibly descended by another route.

She returned to Miss Inouye and helped her down the mountain. They met another party of Japanese climbers from Nagoya who built a sled and lowered the sick woman to the women's base camp at 9,500 feet. The Nagoya climbers said they believed they had seen the three women earlier near the summit. The women were in no trouble and were moving toward the summit.

Miss Sekita went down to a radio station about 1,500 feet below her base camp and contacted Don Sheldon of Talkeetna asking if he would look for the missing women.

Sheldon made two flights over the mountain. He saw no trace of the missing women, but did observe a flag at the mountain peak and a piece of black plastic near by.

When Miss Inouye began vomiting blood, Miss Sekita again called Sheldon. He contacted the Rescue Coordination Center at Elmendorf Air Force Base and an Army helicopter with a flight surgeon on board picked up Miss Sekita and Miss Inouye and brought them to Anchorage.

The woman was admitted to the hospital with internal bleeding. She was described as in serious condition today at the hospital.

Miss Sekita wanted desperately for the helicopter that brought her to Anchorage to take her back to Mt. McKinley. She could not seem to make the crew understand the plight of her three friends.

Finally she explained her plight to a vice consul of the Japanese Consulate here. The Rescue Coordination Center was notified and efforts were made to contact a U.S. Army mountain climbing team presently on the mountain under the guidance of Ray Genet. Sheldon in turn attempted to drop messages to three other teams on the mountain to join the search.

In the meantime Mrs. Watanabe's husband flew to Anchorage from Sapporo. He and Miss Sekita were taken back to Talkeetna today.

Photo caption text:

Michiko Sekita, leader of a five-woman team attempting to assault Mt. McKinley, pleads with an Army medic to return here to the mountain and search for three missing companions. She was evacuated from the mountain Wednesday by an Army helicopter. Later, Talkeetna bush pilot Don Sheldon said he spotted what is probably the missing climbers' gear, nearly buried in snow at the summit. Other parties, including a group of Japanese men, are on the mountain and an attempt to reach the summit will probably be made today.