American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

HAPE, Ascending Too Fast, Inadequate Fluids, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999


Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On June 18, at 1030, Lucas Vidal Proveda, leader of the Spanish expedition Grup De Montanya, reported to Ranger Roger Robinson at the 14,200 foot camp on Mount McKinley that a member of his expedition was ill. Robinson proceeded to their camp, where he found Alvaro Fernandez Ferrer (25) experiencing severe High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. Ferrer was non-ambulatory, therefore he was sledded to the medical tent where he was treated by Dr. Dudley Weider and VIP Scott Darnsey (EMT-2). The initial assessment at 1041 indicated that Ferrer had an SP02 of 37, a pulse of 133 and respirations of 44. Both lungs were nearly full. He was put on oxygen and an IV was started. The Talkeetna Ranger Station was notified, and it was determined that Ferrer should be evacuated as soon as possible. At 1301 the NPS LAMA helicopter landed. Ferrer was flown to the 7,200 foot base camp, then transported by Alaska Air Guard Pavehawk helicopter straight to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage.


Ferrer and his party took just four days to reach the 14,200 foot camp. Ferrer admitted to drinking very little over the prior 24 hours. Lack of fluids and their fast pace directly contributed to the HAPE. (Source: Roger Robinson, Mountaineering Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: There was another HAPE incident this year. On the same day as above, a Japanese climber came into the 14,200 foot camp complaining of HAPE symptoms. This climber did not ascend too fast, but his age—58—and a detected heart murmur indicated a rapid helicopter evacuation.)

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