American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Back Strain, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997


Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On May 11, Robert Gray of the “CFS” party twisted his back at the 14,200 foot camp on the West Buttress of Mt. McKinley. Gray’s condition deteriorated over the next several days, and by the 13th he could not walk. Their party requested assistance from the 14,200 foot Ranger Station at 1230 on the 13th. On the 14th, two NPS VIP’s delivered food, fuel and medicine to the party. Gray improved enough on the 15th to be able to descend without assistance down the mountain, flying out on the 17th.


The “CFS” party handled their situation as well as could be expected considering the predicament they were in. A lowering down the rescue gully is a serious matter and should only be conducted in life threatening situations where there are no other options and a helicopter evacuation is not possible. Many complications can arise in this 3000 foot lowering which, once started, cannot be reversed. Waiting for better weather or in this case waiting for the patient to improve so an assisted descent down the ridge could be made is the safest course of action. (Source: Denali National Park - Talkeetna Subdistrict Ranger Station)

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