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Frostbite, Inadequate Clothing, Alaska, Mount McKinley


Alaska, Mount McKinley

On April 28, 1989, the North Ireland Alaskan Expedition left for the West Buttress of Mount McKinley in order to acclimatize for the Cassin. After taking eight days to reach 4300 meters and spending three nights there, they chose to move higher for a summit bid. On May 10, while moving from 5000 to 5200 meters, Philip Holmes (40) noticed very cold hands. Arriving at the 5200 meter camp, he began cutting snow blocks and upon entering his tent noticed many of his fingers were white and completely numb. The next morning he showed the definite signs of frostbite on both the left and the right hands. He descended with partner Stelfox to the Medical Camp.

On May 11, Ian Rea (33) made a solo attempt on the summit and upon return to 4200 meters, he discovered the big toe on his right foot had been frostbitten. Both victims were examined at the Medical Camp and determined to have mild to moderate frostbite and were released to descend. On May 15 they were both flown out from the Kahiltna Base. (Source: Peter Fielding, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)


Both seemed to be well-hydrated and well-acclimated, but neither had adequate hand and foot protection: Holmes with very thin gloves and neither with full overboots. (Source: Peter Fielding, Mountaineering Ranger, Denali National Park)