American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Frostbite, Alaska, Mount McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

FROSTBITE

Alaska, Mount McKinley

A three-member party from Seattle, Washington, flew to the Kahiltna Glacier on May 23, 1981, to climb the West Rib of Mount McKinley. On June 5 they moved to their high camp at 16,500 feet. At 8:00 a.m. on the 7th, two members, including Gary Seiner (29), left for the summit. Seiner began the ascent with cold feet, wearing Trappeur double boots and super- gators, and had constant trouble keeping his feet warm. At 10,000 feet they encountered high winds and Seiner began to have difficulty keeping warm. At 4:00 p.m. he decided to return while his partner continued on to the summit. Upon his return to the 16,500-foot camp at 6:00 p.m., Seiner knew that something was wrong with his feet. On the 8th, the three climbers descended toward the West Buttress basin and Seiner was able to walk on his own with frostbitten toes. Due to whiteout conditions, the party was forced to camp above 14,200 feet that night. On the 9th, they descended to 12,500 feet on the West Buttress. On June 10, Seiner began to have difficulty descending. At 8,000 feet on the Kahiltna, they encounted the Denali Reconnaissance expedition led by Dr. Peter Hackett. Hackett instructed the Seiner party not to descend any farther but to have Seiner assisted from this point. At 8:30 p.m. the Seiner party radioed out to Kahiltna base of the need for an evacuation. A NPS Mount McKinley patrol of four, led by Ranger Dave Buchanan, responded to the request and arrived at their 8,000-foot camp at 11:30 p.m. Buchanan noticed that Seiner’s toes were bleeding and in poor condition and suggested that they assist Seiner down. At 12:30 a.m. on June 11, the five departed for Kahiltna Base pulling Seiner in a sled. Seven additional climbers joined in to assist the NPS team at the base of the hill at 6,800 feet. Seiner arrived in basecamp at 2:00 a.m. and was flown to Talkeetna at 8:15 a.m. by Tal- keetna Air Taxi. That same day he checked into Providence Hospital in Anchorage. (Source: Roger Robinson, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)

Analysis

This is similar to the Jennings case reported earlier. (Source: J. Williamson)

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