American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Frostbite and Fatigue, Weather, Alaska, Mount McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986


Alaska, Mount McKinley

Having been discouraged by over two weeks of bad weather, including four days of being pinned down at the 3350 meter level in a blizzard, four members of a Mountain Rescue Council (MRC) expedition from Washington broke camp on May 18, 1985, and began descending the Kahiltna Glacier. They lost wands in a whiteout and had to bivouac. On May 19, the weather was better, and on their descent to Kahiltna pass, they soon found themselves trading leads with two climbers on snowshoes. In the deep, fresh snow the climbers were breaking in to their knees, and sometimes their thighs in spite of the snowshoes. Both these climbers had incredibly large haul bags, a contrast to the sleds that our party was equipped with. As the descent continued, one of the climbers, Jim Raymond, revealed that he had summited and had frozen his toes on the summit day. When he told Dr. Hackett, he was advised not to let them thaw until he could reach hospitalization. The party pushed on to Kahiltna Base on May 19 with Jim Raymond experiencing increasing pain as his toes began to thaw. He would not give up his haul sack. Finally our party cut it off of him.

Rich Williams took Raymond’s haul sack, while Tim Bustanogy shared Rich’s sled. About three kilometers short of Mt. Francis, Jim Raymond’s partner was down, “Flat out of gas.” Raymond, frozen toes and all, took his partner’s haul bag and muscled it straight

up “Heartbreak Hill.” By the time the six had reached base, Raymond and his partner were verging on delerium. Our group felt that this was an emergency situation and that Jim Raymond should be flown out. The next two climbers in line gracefully stepped aside and Jim Raymond and his companion were flown out. We have no further authoritative information, but understand that Jim Raymond lost parts of two fingers and two complete toes. (Source: Mountain Rescue Bulletin, October 1985, Washington)

(Editor’s Note: This climber was prepared to face the consequence of the conditions which can often be expected on Danali.)

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