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AMS—Ascending Too Fast, Late Start, Exceeding Abilities, California, Mount Shasta, Avalanche Gulch

AMS-ASCENDING TOO FAST, LATE START, EXCEEDING ABILITIES

California, Mount Shasta, Avalanche Gulch

On July 16, Jans Hogenacker (22) and his party of seven—who had little experience and were unable to recognize the symptoms of AMS as they developed— were climbing the Avalanche Gulch route on Mount Shasta and stopped at 13,200 feet at the base of Misery Hill. Hogenacker appeared sick, could not walk, and had difficulty breathing. As often happens, their late ascent left them in cloud-cover, with some electricity in the air.

Siskiyou County SAR was notified at 1433 and at 1730, the California Department of Forestry Bell Super 205 flew three SAR team members to Sargents Ridge at 11,200 feet. It was too cloudy to fly any higher. The three SAR members were planning on climbing Sargents ridge to Misery Hill. (This is a slightly technical and exposed climb.) At 1950 a brief clearing allowed the California National Guard CH-47 helicopter to lift the SAR members to 13,200 feet at the base of Misery Hill. Another climber informed them that Hogenacker and his party had descended on their own when they believed he wouldn’t be rescued. They were spotted from the air at 12,400 feet in an inaccessible area. The rescue was aborted.

On their descent, Hogenacker improved and was able to walk out on his own.

Analysis

The group members’ inexperience presented them with several problems. Climbing late in the day and into severe weather limited rescue capabilities. Also, not recognizing the signs and symptoms of AMS put their whole party at

risk. The biggest problem was involving SAR team members in risky rescue attempts when no one in Hogenacker’s party was able to resolve their situation without help. (Source: Eric White, Matt Hill—USFS Climbing Rangers)