North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park and Preserve Mountaineering Summary,1993
Denali National Park and Preserve Mountaineering Summary, 1993. The 1993 climbing season was essentially normal compared with the tragic season last year. The weather was better than normal and climbers generally exhibited more caution, contributing to a safer season. There was one fatality on Mount McKinley and 13 other rescue missions within the mountains of the Park. This compares to 13 fatalities last year (11 on McKinley and 2 on Foraker). This season’s rescue costs totaled $70,800 compared to $206,000 for 1993. Considerations for new regulations including pre-registration are ongoing. At present, all climbers are required to register for McKinley and Foraker prior to their expedition. Four 24-day mountaineering patrols were rotated through the 14,200-foot Ranger Station from May 1 through the first week of July. The U.S. Army provided its CH-47 Chinook helicopters to establish and extract our mountain facilities. Alaska Air National Guard Rescue personnel assisted our first patrol. They also provided supplies and equipment for the 14,200-foot camp.
Interesting Statistics: A record number of 1108 climbers attempted McKinley with 670 (60%) reaching the summit this season. With superb weather, surprisingly only 17% attempted routes other than the West Buttress. The West Rib was the second busiest with 92 climbers, compared to 923 on the West Buttress. Climbers of 30 nationalities attempted the mountain. From outside the United States were 468 climbers (42%). The breakdown: USA (639), Germany (68), Switzerland (60), Japan (60), Britain (58), Canada (42), France (33), Spain (23), Austria (23), Norway (20), Italy (12), Australia (9), New Zealand (9), Czechoslovakia (6), Iceland (6), Korea (6), Netherlands (5), Sweden (4), Chile (3), India (3), Mexico (3), Nepal (3), Slovenia (3), Bulgaria (2), Ireland (2), Poland (2), Belgium (1), Colombia (1), Finland (1) and Kazakhstan (1). Rescues: Eleven of the 15 climbers (73%) that were rescued were foreigners. Of climbers attempting McKinley, 1.1% required rescue. Medical. 56 (5%) reported symptoms of acute mountain sickness, 44 of which were mild or moderate and 12 of which were high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema. 19 (2%) reported frostbite, of which 13 were superficial and 6 severe. New Routes and Notable Ascents: The most notable new routes are covered below. A most unusual climb was the ascent of the West Buttress route by a blind woman. American Joan Phelps, a 54-year-old mother, was guided up the mountain by her twin sons, Marty and Michael. The first ever “big three summits” in one season was achieved by Americans Greg Collins and Gary Wilmot. They climbed McKinley’s West Buttress, the southeast ridge of Foraker and the west ridge of Hunter.
Accidents: The Park Service conducted 13 major rescues and evacuated 15 persons by helicopter. There was one fatal accident. Frostbite, Helicopter Evacuation: On April 26, David Peel, P.J. Edwards and James Gallagher of a British Army expedition on the Archangel Ridge of Foraker encountered on the ascent sub-zero temperatures and high winds. Peel and Edwards sustained moderate frostbite and Gallagher sustained minor frostbite at a high camp. They abandoned their high camps and descended. On April 28, they decided a rescue was needed. The five uninjured climbers began a 50-mile hike to Wonder Lake to seek help. On May 3, the three made an emergency radio call to a passing military aircraft, requesting a rescue. Late that day, the National Park Service Lama helicopter evacuated them from the Foraker Glacier. HAPE, Helicopter Evacuation: On May 18, Sergeant Michael Dunn of a U.S. Navy, Marine expedition became extremely ill with high altitude pulmonary edema at 14,200 feet on the West Buttress. He had ascended at a fast rate, arriving there on his fourth day on the mountain. He was stabilized at the National Park Service Camp. Because of the need for rapid descent and the risk of a ground evacuation, he was evacuated by the NPS helicopter on May 19. Acute Dehydration, AMS, Helicopter Evacuation. On May 20, Sergeant Anthony Braithwaite of the same expedition collapsed from dehydration, exhaustion and acute mountain sickness near Windy Corner at 13,300 feet. He had been suffering from acute mountain sickness and severe diarrhea for at least the previous 48 hours, but his expedition continued to climb higher. A Mountain Trip guided expedition found him unconscious shortly after he collapsed. After administering emergency medical care, they lowered him to a helicopter landing zone and called for a rescue. NPS volunteers arrived to assist. The NPS helicopter evacuated Braithwaite to the Kahiltna Base Camp. An Alaska Air National Guard Pavehawk helicopter transported him to Anchorage. Fall with Injuries, Helicopter Evacuation: On May 25, American Don Cook was descending a steep section of ridge at 16,700 feet on the West Buttress in poor weather, with poor visibility and unstable snow. He and his team were weak from their summit climb the previous day. Cook lost his footing and fell when unstable snow broke beneath his feet. He was unable to self-arrest. After falling 40 feet, he stopped, hitting rocks and sustaining injuries to the chest. Physicians suspected rib fractures. Because of pain, the possibility of further chest injury and the patient’s age (62), he was evacuated to Kahiltna Base Camp by NPS helicopter and was flown by fixed-wing aircraft from the mountain. Fatal Fall: On May 30, American Charles Cearly, was descending the Orient Express on the upper part of the West Rib route unroped and not using an ice axe but only a ski pole. At 19,200 feet, the party stopped to rope. As he stopped, Cearly lost his footing and began sliding. Unable to stop himself without an ice axe, he fell 3000 feet to his death from multiple traumatic injuries. HAPE, HACE, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 7, Austrian Eder Ewald, developed severe high altitude pulmonary and cerebral edema on the West Buttress route. He had descended from 16,200 to 14,200 feet on June 6 after becoming ill with acute mountain sickness, but his condition deteriorated to a life-threatening state in the night. He received emergency medical care from NPS rangers and volunteers at the NPS 14,200-foot camp. A helicopter evacuation was delayed until late on June 7 due to poor weather. HAPE, Hypothermia, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 6, Japanese Yamashita Sunao became sick and disoriented while attempting to climb to the summit on the West Buttress route. He descended to 14,200 feet with the help of other climbers and a NPS mountaineering patrol on June 7. Sunao was treated for high altitude pulmonary edema and hypothermia and evacuated by the NPS Lama helicopter in conjuction with the evacuation of Austrian Ewald. Frostbite, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 8, German Juliane Manelshajen developed moderate frostbite on both her feet while trying to climb to the summit on the West Buttress route. Despite being advised to descend and seek care for her injury, she stayed at camp at 17,200 feet while her companions made another summit attempt. On June 10, she was examined at the NPS 14,200-foot camp. Because of the extent of frostbite and the potential for severe tissue damage if she attempted to descend on her own, she was evacuated by helicopter. HAPE, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 10, Japanese Shojiru Tazawa fell ill with high altitude pulmonary edema on the West Buttress. He received medical care at the 14.200-foot camp. Helped by NPS volunteers, he and his expedition descended to the 11,200-foot camp, where they hoped Tazawa would recover. On June 12, his condition seriously deteriorated. When NPS volunteers returned, they found him to be in a life-threatening condition and called for an immediate air evacuation. Internal Bleeding, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 16, Japanese Akira Sakaguchi was evacuated from the 14,200-foot camp after he was diagnosed with a possible life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding. AMS, Pulmonary Embolism, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 15, Nepalese Shyam Blon began to suffer from high altitude mountain sickness near the summit of McKinley. Blon and his expedition returned to their high camp at 17,200 feet. On June 16, Blon coughed up blood and descended immediately to the 14.200-foot camp where he was examined by a physician and diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. He was evacuated by the NPS Lama helicopter. Avalanche, Multiple Injuries, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 16, Mexican Berta Ramírez was hit by an avalanche while climbing in the lower couloir of the West Rib route. She was swept to the bottom of the couloir and partially buried. Although unresponsive when her partners dug her out, they revived her. She suffered injuries to her face and upper extremities. The team was able to contact an aircraft in the area, which notified the NPS Lama helicopter en route to evacuate Blon. The Lama landed at the base of the couloir and evacuated her in conjunction with the rescue already in progress. HACE, Rescue, Helicopter Evacuation: On June 27, Czech Lubomir Tesar was rescued at 17,200 feet on the West Buttress. He and his three companions had ascended rapidly to their 17,200-foot camp in only six days, where Tesar contracted high altitude cerebral edema. He was lowered in a litter down the Rescue Gully by Mountain Trip guides, Tesar’s partners, NPS volunteers and a park ranger. Attempts to stabilize him were undertaken for 16 hours at 14,200 feet. Since no significant improvement was shown, he was air evacuated by helicopter on June 28. There were a number of other injuries, medical problems and altitude-related problems. Thirty-eight climbers were treated at the NPS first aid/rescue camp at 14,200 feet and then descended without help from the Park Service. Others performed their own self-rescues.
Unauthorized Mountain Guides: Several unauthorized guides operated illegally though this is prohibited by the Code of Federal Regulations. The National Park Service investigated all suspected unauthorized guides. Two were cited and convicted in Federal Magistrate’s Court with fines totalling over $9100. One client became seriously ill with HAPE and HACE and would have died if he had not been rescued by the Park’s helicopter. Another guide abandoned two clients and allowed them to wander around unroped in extremely hazardous terrain. They also suffered from frostbite. Seven companies hold concession permits to guide on McKinley and Foraker. Prospective clients should be certain they are employing one of the authorized concessionaires.
Sanitation: With the increasing number of climbers, it is more important than ever to dispose properly of human feces and urine. Many camps, especially at higher elevations, are littered with feces and frozen urine spots that are not covered with the annual accumulation of snow. There is risk of contamination of snow that might be melted and used as drinking water by future expeditions. We suggest the use of plastic bags for latrines, which should be disposed of in a deep crevasse. The Park Service maintains pit latrines dug deeply into the snowpack at the Kahiltna Base Camp, at 14,200 feet on the West Buttress and at the landing area in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. We have recently been experimenting with the removal of human waste in barrels by helicopter. We are also planning for the use of an experimental latrine at the high camp at 17,200 feet on the West Buttress.
Trash: Most expeditions are hauling their trash to Base Camp where it is flown off the mountain. Still others continue to dump it into crevasses. Mountaineers of all nationalities must take the responsibility for, and the initiative in, preserving the quality of the world’s mountain environments. Education, leading by example and peer pressure are probably the most effective tools against less considerate mountaineers. Citations were issued for littering, abandoning food and equipment caches and improper disposal of human waste in 1993.
Administrative Notes: The Volunteer Program which staffs McKinley Patrols is crucial to the safety of climbers. These people unselfishly gave up their time and energy to assist climbers and save lives. The National Park Service thanks the VIPs (Volunteers in the Park). A special thanks is also given to McKinley guides that assisted in rescues. For more information or to request mountaineering information and/or registration forms, please contact the Talkeetna Ranger Station, PO Box 588, Talkeetna, Alaska 99676. Telephone: 907-733- 2231. Fax 907-733-1465.
J.D. Swed, South District Ranger, Denali National Park and Preserve
DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE 1993 MOUNTAINEERING SUMMARY
Muldrow Glacier Traverse
W. Buttress Traverse
Ridge of No Return
* These records represent the number of climbers who registered to climb in these areas. Since registration is required only on Mount Foraker and Mount McKinley, it is likely that other ascents occurred that are not included in these statistics.