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Frostbite, Exposure, Hypothermia — Alaska, Mount McKinley


Alaska, Mount McKinley

On June 8, 1982, a four-member Denali East Ridge Expedition made the summit of Mount McKinley from their high camp (5520 meters) of four days at Denali Pass.

On June 9, in cold, windy conditions ( -26°C), the group descended to the 5200- meter camp on the West Buttress and dug a snow cave. Their food and fluid intake was minimal. Ted Waltman (26), who was described as being “too tired to care,” experienced cold feet throughout the day. Prior to this, he had worn vapor barrier liners in his Koflach Ultra boots.

The next morning, June 10, Waltman expressed concern about his feet. The four climbers prepared to leave without consuming any fluids and descended to the 4400-meter camp. When they arrived, Dr. Peter Hackett and Dr. Frank Hollings- head of the High Latitude Research Program examined Waltman’s feet. He had sustained frostbite on the large toe of each foot; both were immediately thawed and treated.

Waltman was able to continue the descent on his own, arriving at Kahiltna Base on June 13. He was flown out to Talkeetna that afternoon and checked into Providence Hospital in Anchorage on June 14. (Source: Roger Robinson, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)


Several cases of frostbite occurred this year to climbers in “state-of-the-art” boots. Frequent foot checks and avoidance of dehydration are indicated. (Source: J. Williamson)