American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Snow Blindness, Acute Mountain Sickness — Alaska, Mount McKinley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

SNOW BLINDNESS, ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS

Alaska, Mount McKinley

On June 15, both a South African McKinley expedition, consisting of Ian Bailey, Steve Camp, and Anthony Tonder, and a Taiwan Chen expedition consisting of Boa Hwan You and Mei Hsing Chen, returned to the 17,200-foot camp after reaching Mount McKinley’s summit. The South African expedition had taken twelve days to summit and the Chen expedition had taken ten days. Both expeditions had experienced difficulty on their summit days and received assistance from another expedition while descending. Ian Bailey had began to suffer the effects of snow blindness while descending from the summit and Boa Hwan You contemplated a forced bivouac while descending due to exhaustion and severe acute mountain sickness (possibly high altitude pulmonary edema). On June 16 at the 17,200-foot camp around 0900, contact was made with the two groups. Both Bailey and You were evaluated and treated by an NPS Ranger for snow blindness and AMS.

At 0110 the South African and Chen expeditions began descending from 17,200 feet to 14,200 feet with an NPS Ranger organizing the descent. Short rope, running belay, and lowering techniques were used to safely reach the 14,200-foot camp. Once in camp Bailey was treated for snow blindness by NPS personnel, given medical supplies, and released. Bailey, with his other two expedition members, completed their descent to basecamp and flew off the mountain on the 18th. Chen was evaluated at the 14,200-foot NPS camp and released while still suffering from exhaustion and mild AMS and residual effects of high altitude pulmonary edema. The Chen expedition recuperated for two days and completed their descent to basecamp.

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