American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow—Carrying Too Much, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

FALL ON SNOW-CARRYING TOO MUCH

Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On May 23 around 0800, Priska Landolt (30) of the Glaronia-Swiss Expedition was descending below the fixed lines around 15,000 feet when she hooked her left ski tip and heard a pop in her left knee. She packed the knee with snow and continued to descend with the three other members of her expedition. Around 1000 Landolt arrived at the NPS medical tent at 14,200 feet. Dr. Christian Bannwest, an orthopedic surgeon from Switzerland, assisted her to the tent where he, with VIP medical professionals Dan Cosgrove and Bob Mayer, examined her. Dr. Bannwest determined that Landolt had suffered a tear of her medial collateral ligament and/or her anterior cruciate ligament. Medical personnel considered an evacuation necessary because of the instability and inflammation in her knee.

Cloudy weather and a low-pressure system delayed an air evacuation until May 26. On May 26 at 2000 the NPS Lama helicopter landed at 14,200 camp to fly Landolt to the 7,200 basecamp. At basecamp Landolt was flown to Talkeetna by air taxi. In Talkeetna she stayed the night at the Swiss Alaska Inn, then departed for Anchorage and eventually Switzerland the next day on May 27. A letter of thanks to all involved was received by Ranger Metcalfe on June 20. Landolt wrote that she had a complete tear of her anterior cruciate ligament.

Analysis

Landolt’s expedition was doing a traverse from Wonder Lake on the Muldrow Glacier up and over Denali Pass. After waiting out weather near Denali Pass in hopes of a summit bid, they descended the fixed lines with heavy packs and two sleds. Landolt might have chosen to cache some weight at some point in order to decrease the risk of injury. The expedition had decided to descend to the 14,200-foot ranger camp in order to rest and wait for another summit day.

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