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Accident kills at least two from University of Alaska mountaineering class

June 30, 1997

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ At least two people were killed and a dozen others injured when a University of Alaska Anchorage mountaineering class fell down a snowfield Sunday high above Alaska’s largest city.

The accident occurred on Ptarmigan Peak, about 16 miles southeast of downtown Anchorage in the Chugach Mountains.

``We don’t know if it’s two or three (dead),″ said Janet Asaro, a spokeswoman with Providence Alaska Medical Center. The injured were being transferred from the mountain to the hospital by helicopter.

``We expect them to be in serious condition although one was ambulatory,″ Asaro said.

The accident occurred about 6:30 p.m. after the group had reached the top of Ptarmigan Peak, said Steve Wilhelmi, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers.

The climbers, all roped together, were descending the 60-degree slope when the accident occurred.

``One of them apparently slipped and fell and that started the whole group falling,″ Wilhelmi said.

They dropped about 1,000 feet and stopped when they hit a boulder field, he said. Most suffered head injuries and broken bones, Wilhelmi said.

``What we know so far is that the students were taking a course called Mountaineering 1, an introduction for those with limited or no climbing experience,″ university spokesman Mel Kalkowski said. ``... This was their second field outing... twelve people were on the trip, with two instructors.″

Identities of the victims weren’t immediately available.

Lisa Wolf, an Anchorage accountant who had taken the UAA Wilderness Studies class last year, said the climbers probably were doing a snow climb.

``It’s pretty steep,″ Wolf said of the area. ``I remember it being very treacherous on the way down.″

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