Magdalena Czarnecka, of Poland, miraculously survived a 1,000-foot tumble from an Alaskan ridge at Denali National Park and Preserve

By Char Adams
June 08, 2018 01:30 PM
Magdalena Czarnecka (left) and Michael Wangrat
Courtesy Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat/NomadExplorers

Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat, of Poland, had just embarked on their year-long honeymoon adventure last month when tragedy struck.

On May 20, Czarnecka, 29, and her cousin, Marek Paleski, were exploring Denali National Park and Preserve when they fell about 1,000 feet from a steep ridge, according to the Anchorage Daily News. She survived in what Wangrat called  “miracle,” but suffered several injuries as a result of the fall.

“It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime,” Wangrat, 34, told the publication. “And instead of that, we are in the hospital and it’s going to be debt of a lifetime.”

Magdalena Czarnecka
Courtesy Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat/NomadExplorers

Czarnecka and Paleski were roped together when they began ascending the West Buttress route, according to the National Park Service. They weren’t clipped to any aluminum pickets — “Maybe we felt too safe and too strong to clip in,” Czarnecka told the ADN. Paleski slipped and they both tumbled down the mountain into a crevasse on Peters Glacier, according to the ADN and NPS.

They remained in the crevasse overnight until Paleski was able to hike back to his camp for help. Czarnecka was airlifted to a local hospital when rescuers were finally able to reach her, Fox News reports.

Czarnecka suffered two broken bones and three broken teeth, the couple said on their Facebook page. She underwent a four-hour surgery to fuse bones in her neck and install a skull plate for stabilization.

Magdalena Czarnecka
Courtesy Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat/NomadExplorers

In an update on their Facebook page last week, the couple revealed that although Czarnecka is lucky to have survived, she has lost about 70 percent “of her neck movement forever.” By June 1, Czarnecka was in rehab at an Alaska hospital and able to explore outside in a wheelchair.

“Magda feels stronger. We even went for a walk — a bit on a pram, a bit on foot,” the couple wrote in a follow-up post. “We hope that we will soon return home for further treatment and rehabilitation.”

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Magdalena Czarnecka, Michael Wangrat and Marek Paleski's camp site at Denali National Park and Preserve
Courtesy Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat/NomadExplorers

Park ranger Joseph McBrayer, who helped rescue Czarnecka, told the ADN that he was shocked that he was shocked to find Czarnecka alive.

“I think generally if you were to ask any one of my peers, or anyone else in the climbing community, if someone would survive a thousand-foot fall on 40-to50-degree snow and ice, I think they’d probably say, ‘no,’ ” he told the publication.

Magdalena Czarnecka
Courtesy Magdalena Czarnecka and Michael Wangrat/NomadExplorers

Now, Czarnecka and Wangrat, who wed in April, hope to return to Poland — cutting their adventure short, the wrote on Facebook.

The newlyweds told the ADN that they hope to take another trip when Czarnecka heals. And Czarnecka told the publication that Wangrat’s support throughout the ordeal has only made her happier to be married to him.

“After this trip, we are stronger,” she said.