American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Acute Mountain Sickness, Inadequate Equipment, Hypothermia, Washington, Mount Rainier

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


Washington, Mount Rainier

Craig Dupler (35) and three companions left Camp Muir at 0300 on September 29, 1985, for a summit climb of Mount Rainier by way of the Disappointment Cleaver-Emmons Glacier route. Conditions that day and the previous were very warm causing a breakable crust at night and very slushy conditions during the afternoon hours.

About 1300 and 3900 meters, Dupler was overcome by extreme fatigue and altitude sickness. Dupler stated that while taking a break, he was overcome with dizziness, nausea (although he never vomited), disorientation and total exhaustion. Dupler also complained of a severe bifrontal headache. At that time three other climbing parties came to the assistance of the Dupler party. One group was sent to Camp Muir to notify the ranger and that Dupler was requesting a helicopter evacuation.

Between 1300 and 1700, Dupler was lowered and assisted to 3500 meters where his party elected to bivouac, against the advice of the assisting climbers, who suggested that Dupler continue descending to the Ingraham Flats area. Dupler’s party members, John Wick, Theresa Muir and Sue Parker, dug a small pit and placed Dupler in it to shelter him from the wind. Dupler’s party was not prepared for this situation. They borrowed clothing from others. Dupler was laid on balled up polypropylene underwear and was wearing a borrowed down jacket and rainpants; he was covered with a thick survival-type blanket and Gortex bivy sack.

At 1700, preparations were being made for a helicopter evacuation of Dupler. Due to the late time of day and the elevation of the Dupler party, the plan for a helicopter evacuation was canceled. At 1838 Ranger Moe and two climbers left Camp Muir. Climbing under full moon conditions, they arrived at 2245. Dupler and party were found in a cold and weakened condition, morale was low. Dupler was suffering from hypothermia and his companions were confused and very cold. John Wick stated that he and the women were afraid they were going to die. They had decided that they would leave Dupler alone and descend to Camp Muir confident that a helicopter would rescue their party leader that night. Hot drinks were provided and warm clothing distributed to Dupler’s party members. Dupler was insulated from the snow with ensolite pads, given dry clothing and placed in a sleeping bag and bivy sack. Dupler’s pulse was 100 and he had no problem breathing. After warming up Dupler’s party, they were advised to return to Camp Muir. Schmidt and Kirby dug in and prepared to bivouac and continued to melt snow for hot drinks. Dupler was given hot drinks and high carbohydrate food. Ranger Moe enlarged Dupler’s bivy site and spent the night monitoring Dupler’s condition and providing more hot drinks. Dupler slept soundly most of the night. (Source: Bill Moe, Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park)

(Editor’s Note: Dupler recovered over the next several weeks)

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