American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Unknown, Climbing Unroped, Placed No Protection, Failure to Turn Back, Weather, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

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


Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On June 2, Karl Jendryschik and Jurgen Bruhm of the German expedition Saxonia 96, were separated from each other at Denali Pass. At 2252 Jendryschik contacted an NPS patrol at 17,000 feet and told them his partner Bruhm did not make it down from Denali Pass. Jendryschik thought Bruhm either fell or bivouacked at the pass. A ground and air search was suspended periodically because of weather. On June 14, the search for Bruhm was reactivated as the weather improved. Bruhm was not located and is presumed deceased. Rescuers hoped that Bruhm had survived a three day bivouac during the June 3 to 7 period. There was no evidence to support this theory except for a used chemical heat pack that could have been used by Bruhm during his bivouac with Jendryschik on June 2. According to an interview with Jendryschik, Bruhm was not accomplished in the skill of self arrest. Their exposure to big mountains and severe cold weather was shallow, and they felt extended.


The Saxonian expedition overextended themselves in attempting the summit. The weather obviously was not optimal during their summit attempt and the forecast predicted higher winds, from what already could be considered as dreadful conditions. They should have turned back instead of attempting the summit.

The weather forecast is a weighty factor in making the decision on whether to go up or not. The forecast should also be interpreted as conservatively as one’s nature permits. Whether having a radio would have helped them in receiving the weather forecast is unknown, as Jendryschik’s English was poor.

Many falls have occurred at Denali Pass and will no doubt continue, until climbers use protection on this terrain. Pickets are very easy to carry and place on the traverse. Their use adds a tremendous safeguard for climbers descending the pass.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.