American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Frostbite, Bad Weather, Failure to Check Feet — Alaska, Mount McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1983

FROSTBITE, BAD WEATHER, FAILURE TO CHECK FEET

Alaska, Mount McKinley

On Jiily 3, 1982, Miri Ercolani of Italy flew into the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier (2000 meters) to start her solo climb on the West Buttress of Mount McKinley.

After reaching the summit on July 21, Ercolani started descending the route toward the base camp at 2000 meters. On July 23, when she got to Kahiltna Pass (3000 meters), the weather had deteriorated: zero visibility, high winds and cold temperatures (-30°C). Ercolani dug a snow cave and was forced to stay at Kahiltna Pass for three days. She ate and drank adequate amounts of food and water but did not remove her Dolomite plastic double boots the entire time. After the storm, she continued down to base camp.

At 1400 on July 27, Ercolani was picked up from base camp by Lowell Thomas of Talkeetna Air Taxi. Once in Talkeetna, Ercolani removed her boots, which she had worn continuously for five days. She had frostbite on the big toes of each foot. On July 28, Thomas flew Ercolani to Anchorage where she was taken to Providence Hospital for treatment. (Source: Scott Gill, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)

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