Robbi Mecus
Robbi Mecus, 52, of Keene Valley, New York, died after a fall in Denali National Park on April 25, 2024. Credit: Instagram

Victim in Denali Fall Identified as Prominent Trans Climber

Robbi Mecus was a New York State forest ranger and a prominent voice within the LGBTQ climbing community.

The National Park Service released the name of the climber who died after a fall last week on Mount Johnson in Denali National Park and Preserve as 52-year-old Robbi Mecus. Mecus was a skilled ice climber who served as a New York State forest ranger who led search-and-rescue missions and she was also a prominent voice within the LGBTQ climbing community.

According to the press release, the Park Service said the New York native fell an estimated 1,000 feet on April 25 along with her partner who was only identified as a 30-year-old woman from California. Although her partner survived, she sustained serious injuries and was transported to an Anchorage hospital.

Denali, which is named after the tallest mountain in the U.S., is one of the deadliest national parks in the country. Between 2007 and 2020, the park recorded 64 deaths, mainly due to extreme weather and climbing accidents.

mount johnson

The X on the "Escalator" route on Mount Johnson is where Robbi Mecus's partner was rescued. Credit: NPS

Officials say the two women were roped in while climbing a steep route known as "the Escalator" — a 5,000-foot route comprised of rock, ice, and snow — when they fell. Climbers from another party witnessed the fall and alerted the authorities.

The witnesses were also able to climb down to Mecus and her partner and confirm with authorities their status. They then dug a snow cave and attended to the surviving climber's needs throughout the night. Authorities arrived the next morning to transport the injured woman to a hospital and returned on Saturday to recover Mecus's body.

In a statement, Sean Mahar, the interim commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, called Mecus's passing "sudden and tragic." Mahar said: "She exemplified the Forest Rangers' high standard of professional excellence while successfully leading dangerous rescues and complex searches, educating the public about trail safety, deploying out of state for wildfire response missions and advancing diversity, inclusion, and LGBTQ belonging throughout the agency."

According to reports, Mecus, who served as a forest ranger for more than 25 years, conducted countless missions in areas like the Adirondacks Mountains as recently as March, when she led a team that found a hypothermic hiker. In a video posted to YouTube, Mecus explained that she began her career as a forest ranger for the U.S. Forest Service after graduating college in 1996 and worked in Alaska.

In an interview with the NYC Trans Oral History Project, she talked about growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, as she struggled with her gender identity and homophobic father. She described her struggle identifying as a woman and being attracted to women until she came out at the age of 44. Then, in 2022, she organized the first Queer Ice Fest to bring together the LGBTQ and climbing communities.