American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alaska, Mt. McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

Alaska, Mt. McKinley. Highcamp for the winter McKinley party was a snowcave at 17,200 feet West Buttress. All seven climbers attempted the summit from this camp on 27 February, but were turned back by whiteout and storm at about 19,000 feet. The following day they all tried again and Blomberg, Edwards, Nishimae, and Wichman turned back short of Denali Pass at 18,200 feet while Davidson, Johnston and Genet continued to the South Peak, 20,320 feet, for the first winter ascent. On the way down they were stopped by the storm at Denali Pass and dug in. Their empty packs were blown away but they had their sleeping bags and some food; Johnston remembered where he and Hoeman had cached some gasoline in 1963 and was able to find it. During the next week the storm continued. Blomberg and Edwards returned to basecamp on the Kahiltna Glacier, Nishimae and Wichman tried unsuccessfully to reach the pass, finally gave up for dead those above, and came down to Kahiltna Pass igloo camp at 9,900 feet. When the storm let up on the summit area the three given up for lost made their way down on March 7th. They were spotted that day and picked up the next by helicopter at 13,150 feet at Windy Corner. Nishimae and Winchman were the last ones evacuated on March 9th.

Source: J. Vin Hoeman.

Analysis: The group claims that their last weather forecast before their summit attempts had been for a period of good weather, but it seems that the weather was actually marginal as they made the attempts and they may have felt willing to take more than ordinary risks. (See also analysis of McKinley accident where seven died.)

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