American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

HAPE, HACE, Ascending Too Fast, Dehydration, Alaska, Mount McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

HAPE, CE, ASCENDING TOO FAST, DEHYDRATION

Alaska, Mount McKinley

On May 31, 1993, the Denali ’93 Australian-Salzburg Expedition flew to the Southwest Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to begin their climb of the West Buttress. The six person expedition was led and guided by Robert Strouhal.

The group arrived at the 14,300 foot camp on June 5, 1993. On June 6, 1993, they climbed to the 16,200 foot level. During their ascent to 16,200 feet, Eder Ewald (36) became ill with acute mountain sickness. The group descended to the 14,300 foot camp late on June 6. Ewald’s symptoms became severe, including nausea, difficulty breathing, and difficulty walking. Ewald slept in camp on the night of June 6.

At 0400 on June 7, Strouhal contacted Ranger Daryl Miller at the NPS camp. Strouhal stated that one of his clients was extremely ill and unable to walk, and he sledded Ewald to the medical tent at 0425. Ewald was assessed by EMT and NPS volunteer John Roskelley. Ewald was ataxic, incoherent, unable to perform simple neurological tests and motor functions, had an oxygen saturation of 43%, difficulty breathing, and crackles in the left and right lung fields. Oxygen was administered with a reservoir mask at 15 IV min. At 0450, medical control at Alaska Regional Hospital was contacted.

Ewald and another victim of HAPE, Sunao Yamashita (40) were evacuated on June 7. In Anchorage, both were treated for HAPE, and Ewald for CE as well.

Analysis

Both climbers had ascended too fast, and Yamashita, who also suffered hypothermia, had not taken in enough fluids. Ewald's guide further exacerbated the situation by delaying to seek medical assistance.

Strouhal was guiding illegally. While he may be a competent guide in his own country, he was inexperienced in the special problems of altitude and arctic conditions found on Mount McKinley. He was fined $500 and required to pay $5,600 restitution for Ewald's rescue. (Source: Jim Phillips, NPS Ranger, Denali National Park)

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