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Pulmonary Edema – Oregon, Mt. Hood

PULMONARY EDEMA—Oregon, Mt. Hood. On Saturday, June 11, a Basic Climbing Class led by Bill Davis ascended to a base camp at 8900 feet on Mt. Hood’s south side. One student, John Sargent (16) was quite long in attaining the base camp. He became nauseous and seemed quite tired. Since he had worked so hard getting to base camp, and with the warm weather, everybody thought this was why he was so exhausted. All evening he tried to eat, but would only vomit right away. When he retired he was tired and nauseous but seemed okay otherwise.

In the morning, as the rest left for the top, he stayed in base camp, too nauseous to climb. When the group returned he was told to prepare to descend. After 30 minutes he didn’t even have his boots laced. When we looked into his tent it was observed that he was struggling for breath and “gurgling” on breathing. We recruited personnel to escort him down immediately! After a 1000-foot drop via sliding him on the snow he recuperated a little. The ski tow sno-cat was returning down the mountain and picked him up and transported him to the Timberline Ski Patrol hut. By this time ( - 1300 feet of altitude) he was under his own power and was markedly improved.

Victim had no altitude exposure in his life before. He had even suffered altitude sickness the previous weekend during an earlier attempt on Mt. Hood, with a base camp at 7000 feet. (Source: Bergtrage, Mountain Rescue Council, October-November 1977.)

(Ed. Note: Though accounts of pulmonary edema were few this year, the altitude at which they occurred—8900 feet and 10,000 feet, for example— should be noted.)