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HACE, Party Separated, Failure to Turn Back, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

HACE, PARTY SEPARATED, FAILURE TO TURN BACK

Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

Throughout the day on June 17, several expeditions passed Hiroyaki Hoshino (36) and his companions, between 18,000 feet and 19,700 feet. Everyone who passed Hoshino and was later interviewed said that Hoshino looked exhausted and shaky. A ranger patrol descending from the summit stopped to talk to Hoshino and in no uncertain terms tried to convince Hoshino to go down, but were unsuccessful. It is unlikely, but the language barrier could have been a problem in getting the point across to Hoshino.

At the “football field” (19,500 feet) Hoshino was too exhausted to go to the summit. His friends elected to continue and left Hoshino. Hoshino's friends summitted and returned for him. Hoshino had become ataxic from altitude sickness and exhaustion and he needed assistance from his friends to hike down. The Japanese were able to make it down to Denali Pass, where they requested a rescue at 0130 on June 18.

At 0402 the LAMA helicopter and Hudson's Cessna 206 acting as cover plane were in the air to evacuate Hoshino. At approximately the same time, a ground rescue team comprised of volunteers from High Camp was climbing up to assist the Japanese at Denali Pass.

At 0459 the LAMA landed at 18,000 feet, and ranger Kevin Moore assisted the ataxic Hoshino to the helicopter. Hoshino was flown to Base camp where he was treated and stabilized.

Analysis

Hoshino overextended himself. His climbing partners failed to recognize the situation and react to it. Instead they elected to go to the summit. They were also improperly prepared to bivouac, which caused Hoshino to become hypothermic while waiting for a rescue. (Source: Kevin Moore, Mountaineering Ranger)