American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Unable to Self-Arrest, Inadequate Belay, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

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  • Publication Year: 1999

FALL ON ICE, UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST, INADEQUATE BELAY

Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

William Finley (24) and Jeff Munroe (25) were injured in a 2,000 foot fall down the “Orient Express” section of the West Rib route on Mount McKinley June 18 at 0040. Both were descending roped together when they slipped on 45-degree ice around 17,800 feet, ending their fall at the 15,800 foot level. Finley sustained chest injuries while Munroe was knocked unconscious. Both men were lowered down to the Ranger Camp by a rescue team. Munroe remained unconscious through his evacuation on June 19. Finley was evacuated on June 21 by an Army Chinook helicopter. Both were transported to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage.

Analysis

Billy Finley and Jeff Munroe were the eighteenth and nineteenth climbers to have fallen down the Orient Express. They were only the third and fourth to have survived. They were very lucky the two British climbers witnessed the fall and could immediately provide assistance. The quick responses from Johnston, Whitfield, 14K rescuers, the NPS LAMA, and the 14K medical attention certainly saved their lives. (Source: Roger Robinson, Mountaineering Ranger)

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