- Associated Press - Sunday, June 17, 2012

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The National Park Service has halted a search for four Japanese climbers believed buried on Mount McKinley because of dangerous search conditions.

The agency announced Sunday that 10 rescuers including a handler with a dog reached on Saturday the debris zone where an avalanche is believed to have buried the four climbers early Wednesday morning.

A mountaineering ranger lowered himself into the crevasse where the party’s sole survivor fell. The ranger probed avalanche debris 100 feet beneath the glacier’s surface and found rope that matched the rope of the Japanese climbing team.

The risk of ice falling made it too dangerous to keep digging, according to the National Park Service.

The lone survivor, 69-year-old Hitoshi Ogi, was able to climb out of the crevasse.

He continued his descent and on Thursday afternoon reached the Kahiltna base camp, where he reported the incident to rangers.

Missing and presumed dead are Yoshiaki Kato, 64; Masako Suda, 50; Michiko Suzuki, 56; and Tamao Suzuki, 63.

All are members of the Japanese alpine club Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation.

Mr. Ogi suffered only a minor hand injury, according to the Park Service.

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