American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Frostbite, Dehydration — Alaska, Mount McKinley

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

FROSTBITE, DEHYDRATION

Alaska, Mount McKinley

On July 19, 1982, three members of the Longside Mountaineering Club, Robin Clothier (26), John Murphy (20) and Alister Cain, flew into Kahiltna Base Camp to climb the Cassin Ridge on Mount McKinley.

The group took seven days to go from the base of the Japanese Couloir to the summit. During the four days above 4850 meters, they drank only 2–3 pints of water a day (their water bottles froze) but ate adequate amounts of food. Clothier and Murphy were wearing Koflach Ultra boots with Supergators; none of them removed their inner boots above 4850 meters. On the summit day, the group moved more slowly than normal because one member had altitude problems. All experienced cold feet.

At 0200 on August 1, they reached the summit, where the temperature was -35°C with little wind; they descended the West Buttress route. When they reached 4250 meters, they decided to establish camp. Murphy and Clothier realized that they had frostbite on both feet. After a night at 4250 meters, the three climbers continued down until they met a five-member Japanese expedition at 3050 meters. The group stopped and used the Japanese climbers’ radio to call Talkeetna but were unsuccessful. At this point, it became apparent that Clothier and Murphy could not descend any farther. They were evacuated by helicopter to base camp and from there, by plane, to Anchorage. (Source: Scott Gill, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)

Analysis

See June frostbite accident.

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