HAPE, CE, ASCENDING TOO FAST
Alaska, Mount McKinley
During May and early June, members of three separate foreign climbing teams were diagnosed as having High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).
Victor Grosley and Thomas Jannik (46), Yugoslavian climbers with extensive high- altitude experience, were delayed in their arrival to the mountain due to lost luggage. In an attempt to make up lost time, they climbed 1500 meters in less than 48 hours. At the 4500-meter level, Jannik was extremely ataxic, with symptoms of HAPE and Cerebral Edema (CE). Ranger Scott Gill organized a sled evacuation, and around the 4000-meter level, Jannik was able to continue the descent on his own.
Sachikie Takada (37) was a member of a three-person Japanese expedition to the West Buttress. By May 23, they were at the 5200-meter camp when they decided to descend to the 4300-meter camp because of weather and Takada’s condition. A French expedition noticed her and sledded her to the medical facility, where even after 24 hours of oxygen and Diamox, she was still nonambulatory. Her partners showed little concern and were reportedly of no help in getting her to the medical tent.
A West German party of two made a five-day ascent of the West Buttress. Hubert Eggert (26) descended before reaching the summit, returning to the 5200-meter camp while his partner continued to the top with another team. The next morning, Eggert was semiconscious and did not respond to stimulation. He had to be lowered to the 4300-meter camp where he was put on oxygen and Decadron. He had to be flown out to Anchorage the next day. (Source: Roger Robinson, Scott Gill, and Bob Seibert, Mountaineering Rangers, Denali National Park)
Foreign climbers continue to account for the large percentage of HAPE and CE cases on Mount McKinley. Their level of experience and the very thorough briefings they get in Talkeetna do not seem to make a difference. The driving factor seems to be the brief time period they have to complete the climb. A two-to-three-week summer vacation, four days of which are taken up traveling to and from Alaska, is barely enough time to climb Mount McKinley under ideal conditions if one is not acclimatized to altitude. Short of denying access to the mountain, the Denali National Park Rangers have done more than enough in terms of orientation and education regarding this problem. (Source: J. Williamson)