Pulmonary Edema, Alaska, Mount McKinley

Publication Year: 1982.


Alaska, Mount McKinley

The seven-member Keio University Japanese expedition flew to Kahiltna to climb Mount McKinley on May 21. By May 28, the party reached the 14,200-foot camp on the West Buttress. One member, Makiya Naito (22), was suffering from a cold with symptoms of a slight fever, as well as an earache and a lack of appetite. He also had difficulty sleeping. During the next four days, the party made several carries to the 17,200-foot high camp and then were weathered in on May 31 and June 1.

Naito’s condition improved, so the party moved to 17,200 feet on June 2 and to the summit on June 3. On the 4th, the party descended to 14,200 feet where, that evening, Naito became extremely ill with a lot of coughing and congested lungs. By the next day, he was unable to move on his own. The Keio party received assistance from an American party, Gila Denali. Physician’s assistant Jack Anusewicz of this party diagnosed Naito to have either pulmonary edema or pneumonia. At 4:15 p.m., the Gila party radioed out to base camp which then relayed the situation to Ranger Roger Robinson at the Talkeetna Ranger Station. Due to poor weather at the 14,200-foot camp, it was recommended that the Keio party descend with Naito as rapidly as possible. At 7:20 p.m., they departed with Naito who was brought down on two sleds. By 10:00 p.m., they had arrived at 10,000 feet on the Kahiltna where they camped with a guided Genet party under guide Brian Okonek. Naito improved overnight and was diagnosed by a doctor on the 6th as having a virus in the lungs. It was recommended that he remain at 10,000 that day. By June 7, Naito could walk but was very uncoordinated, so his party continued their sled-assisted descent, arriving at the landing site at 4:00 p.m. His health improved considerably with descent and he was able to walk upon arrival at base camp. Naito was in Talkeetna by 7:30 p.m. and was observed by Robinson at 8:00 p.m. Naito required no medical treatment. (Source: Roger Robinson, Park Ranger, Denali National Park)


This is one of several edema cases for this year. Last year, the comments on foreign climbers neglected to mention the fact that altitude is frequently a problem for them, primarily because they are compelled to move up fast due to their time schedules. (Source: J. Williamson)