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Fall on Snow, Fatigue, Inadequate Equipment, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

FALL ON SNOW, FATIGUE, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT

Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On May 16 at 1840, Christoph Haider (24) fell from below Denali Pass while descending the West Buttress route. Ranger Kevin Moore and others witnessed the fall and responded to the scene where they assessed and stabilized Haider. Moore and Volunteer Ranger Jay Patterson determined he had suffered head injuries including a possible broken nose as well as a possible femur fracture. Haider was alert and able to move his toes; it was unclear if he had lost consciousness during the fall. Haider and Moore were short-hauled via the Lama helicopter from 17,000 feet to the 7,200-foot base camp where Haider was loaded into the Lama and evacuated to Talkeetna. A Lifeguard helicopter then took Haider to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, where his condition was given as stable. He had suffered a broken nose and lacerations to the head and face. His leg injury was diagnosed as an open knee joint, an injury caused by Haider’s crampon, and a fractured ankle.

Analysis

This incident has many of the components of a classic Mount McKinley accident. Haider was descending after a long and tiring summit day. In addition, he was unroped and using only his ski poles instead of an ice ax. The terrain he fell on is considerably steeper and more exposed than he had just traveled on above Denali Pass. Numerous accidents have occurred on this traverse and despite having specifically warned this expedition about the hazards associated with, it they are yet another group to underestimate the danger this area presents.