ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Two experienced climbers have fallen to their deaths on Alaska’s Mount McKinley.

National Park Service rangers have recovered the bodies of 39-year-John Mislow of Newton, Mass., and 36-year-old Andrew Swanson of Minneapolis.

The climbers, both doctors, were roped together when they fell Thursday afternoon along Messner Couloir, a steep, hourglass-shaped snow gully on the 20,320-foot mountain, North America’s tallest peak.

Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said many factors about the fall remain unknown, including its starting point and whether the climbers were ascending or descending the mountain, which is in Denali National Park and Preserve.

McLaughlin said the men fell at least 2,000 feet to Messner Couloir’s base at 14,500 feet. Other climbers saw at least part of the fall, she said.

Rangers at the 14,200-foot camp were notified by radio within minutes of the accident. Three skiers in the vicinity were first to reach the climbers.

The deaths were confirmed by rangers, including medics, who were following close behind. The bodies were later recovered by helicopter.

In 2000, Mislow and Swanson received the Denali Pro Award in recognition of setting the highest standards of mountaineering for safety, self-sufficiency and assistance to fellow climbers.

The two helped several teams in distress that year and assisted with visitor protection projects, McLaughlin said.

AP-ES-06-12-09 1545EDT

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