American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Research on Mount McKinley

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

Research on Mount McKinley. During the 1981 climbing season, a lengthy questionnaire was circulated among Mount McKinley climbers by the Department of High-Latitude Studies of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, in cooperation with the National Park Service. Our purpose was to obtain a statistical basis for further studies of cold-and-altitude- related problems such as frostbite, hypothermia and acute mountain sickness. Some 296 climbers responded. Among these, 52 or 18% reported frostbite of varying degrees. Three percent responded positively to hypothermia questions. More than 60% described signs and symptoms com- patable with acute mountain sickness. These varied from mild symptoms such as headache and sleep disturbance to more potentially dangerous signs, such as ataxia (loss of coordination) or a persistent cough. To nobody’s surprise, frostbite occurred more frequently in climbers reaching the higher elevations wearing standard mountaineering boots without over boots. An interesting statistic also gave credence to the unpleasant necessity of sleeping with one’s boots in the sleeping bag. Some 75% of those suffering frostbite did not do so. Over 60% of those suffering frostbite had a fluid intake of less than three quarts per day. The 1982 climbing season will see research camps at 7000 and 14,000 feet on the West Buttress. As an ongoing University of Alaska project, researchers will delve more deeply into frostbite and hypothermia and their relationship to the spectrum of acute mountain sickness.

Dean Rau, M.D., Dale Walberg, M.D. and William L. Mills, Jr., M.D.

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