American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alaska, Mt. McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1964

Alaska, Mt. McKinley. On 16 June Jim Lathrop was lead man on a rope of three while descending the steep West Buttress wall. Much snow had accumulated during a bad storm. Travel was extremely slow in the hip deep and sometimes chest deep snow. He was not able to get his feet out of the snow for several hours. The steepness of the slope which caused his toes to be jammed forward on every step, played an important part in this accident. Major causes were (1) the steepness of the slope, (2) too many socks which cut circulations, (3) crampon straps may have been too tight, and (4) foot-level conditions were much more severe than air temperatures indicated.

Source: Jim Lathrop.

Analysis: (1) One thing I feel should be required of all McKinley and other expedition climbers is a thorough study and understanding of Mills’ and Washburn’s article in the AAC journal 1962 edition on Frostbite. No finer work has been written on the subject with such research and clarity. (2) One should have free movement of the toes within the boot at all times for better circulation. (3) Once one has frostbite he should keep off his feet as much as possible. (4) In event of an accident of this nature immediate evacuation should be enforced even in questionable cases of frostbite.

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