American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alaska, Mt. McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1962

Alaska, Mt. McKinley. On May 11, John D. Graham (65) and his party approached the summit of Mount McKinley. The wind was from the southwest at their back. With his all-down outfit, he did not realize it was 40 below zero. Felix Julen came towards him facing the wind. Graham saw that his nose was frostbitten. He shouted that they would have to put on their face masks right away. He had to pull off his down mitts in order to button his facemask. His woolen mittens inside the mitts also came off exposing his hands to the cold wind. It was difficult to button his facemask with his cold bare fingers. The 80-mile-per-hour wind caused all his fingers to be frostbitten quickly. After completing the climb the party returned to base camp at 10,000 ft. where they were storm bound. Graham was evacuated by plane on May 20. He still has residual effects of the frostbite.

Source: John D. Graham.

Analysis: (Graham) The facemask should have had an elastic band instead of buttons. If the woolen mittens had had a tight elastic wrist band, or if silk or nylon gloves with elastic wrist band had been worn, the accident would not have occurred. In very windy and sub-zero weather, facemask should be put on before making the final climb to the summit.

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