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Altitude Sickness, Pneumonia, Yukon Territory, Mt. Logan, King Trench Route


Yukon Territory, Mt. Logan, King Trench Route

At 8 a.m. on May 16, 1980, Kluane Park headquarters received word that Elizabeth Strasser was suffering from a combination of altitude sickness and severe cold at the 17,500-foot level. Information was relayed by a party member who had descended to the 14,500-foot level and their cached radio. The radio operator had to return to the 17,500-foot level to relay medical instructions and assist in moving Strasser down the mountain. Helicopter evacuation was not successful until late on May 18 from the 12,000-foot level. Weather conditions were —8°C and winds gusting to 50 mph caused severe ground drift. The balance of the group waited until May 23 before charter aircraft could effect a pick-up. Strasser’s condition was diagnosed as a severe case of bronchial pneumonia. (Source: R. Frey, Kluane National Park)


In this incident, as well as in the July 16 case of cerebral and pulmonary edema on Mt. Logan’s east ridge, early identification and correct treatment of altitude related problems no doubt insured the patients’ survival. As climbing activity increases in the St. Elias Range, so does the incidence of altitude sickness. Party leaders should be aware that party size plus the isolation and poor weather are major planning considerations when organizing expeditions into the area. (Source: R. Frey)