American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alaska, Mt. McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

Alaska, Mt. McKinley. An all-female expedition consisting of Mrs. Grace Hoeman, Margaret Young, Margaret Clark, Mrs. Dana Isherwood, Faye Kerr, and Arlene Blum were climbing McKinley.

The 5th of July all members rested at 17,200 foot level. At 05:00 in the morning of 6 July all members started for the summit. A slow progress was made to Denali Pass. The weather, which had looked marginal during early morning, improved and it was decided to make a summit attempt. Mrs. Hoeman developed left-sided headaches, her usual migraine type. She took three Fiorinal and two diuretic tablets in succession, and continued slowly up, without much worsening in headache. Members of the Denali Peak Expedition met the party going up as they came down. They noticed that Mrs. Hoeman looked very tired and offered to take her to the summit another day. This seemed not necessary to Mrs. Hoeman, who claimed this was an all-female expedition. Late in the afternoon all made the summit, though for Mrs. Hoeman this had been an effort, and because of her unsteady state she was roped up between Clark and Kerr. After a brief rest the party descended. In the Basin (Archdeacon Flat) she collapsed, but then she walked down a stretch— then collapsed and refused to go further. At that time, she was irrational. No medications were used at this time, but Mrs. Hoeman was transported with an improvised stretcher to the 18,700 foot level. At times during the transport, Mrs. Hoeman was asked if she could walk, but Mrs. Hoeman, irrational, told the members of the party no. Her pulse was about 90 per minute and she vomited. It was now midnight and quite cold with steep icy slopes between there and Denali Pass. Consequently two members of the party made a decision to bivouac there 400 feet above the Pass with Mrs. Hoeman, while the others went for help to the Denali Peak Expedition members, who had descended to the 17,200 foot level. Later that evening, three members of the expedition came back to 18,200 feet, set up the tent of a departed Japanese party at Denali Pass, while one member of the Denali Peak Expedition came up to 18,700 feet. Mrs. Hoeman, after some rest, was more rational, still with a left-sided headache and weak, but able to walk with the aid of two of her party members and one from the Denali Peak Expedition. The rest of the night was spent in the Japanese tent. In the course of the morning, Mrs. Hoeman’s headache subsided and the party with the assistance of one member of the Denali Peak Expedition descended down to 17,200 feet.

Source: Grace Hoeman and Arlene Blum.

Analysis: It might have been better if the party on the 5th of July had moved up to Denali Pass, or if Mrs. Hoeman had returned with the Denali Peak Expedition to Denali Pass and tried later as per offer. It is a long day to go from 17,200 feet to the summit in one day.

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