American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Heart Attack, Washington, Mount Rainier

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


Washington, Mount Rainier

In early August, Lawrence “Laury” Minard (51), a Seattle native who had moved to London to edit and write for Forbes Global Magazine, collapsed and died around 12,000 feet up Mount Rainier during a guided climb.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office on Friday reported Minard died of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or ASCVD. The condition occurs as fatty plaques build up on artery walls, limiting blood circulation and placing too much strain on the heart. Mountain guides who fought for 45 minutes to revive Minard said he stopped breathing soon after his collapse and never regained consciousness.

Minard’s collapse occurred while he was climbing with a guided party up Disappointment Cleaver, an outcrop of 45-degree rock bordering Rainier’s Emmons Glacier.

Guides with Rainier Mountaineering Inc. say Minard complained he was having difficulty catching his breath and needed to rest. He unclipped from the climbing rope and sat down, but he collapsed and stopped breathing minutes later.

RMI guides halted the climb and performed CPR and other emergency measures, said Peter Whittaker, Operations Manager for RMI. The efforts were witnessed by the other RMI clients, including Minard’s 16-year-old daughter, Julia. Minard’s body was later flown off the mountain.

Park rangers say the zig-zagging route up the Cleaver is usually the steepest and most exhausting portion of the most popular route up 14,410-foot Mount Rainier.

“It’s generally a spot where climbers recognize whether they’re going to make it or not. The top of the cleaver is a common spot for people to turn around and head down,” said Mike Gauthier, lead climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. Climbing the mountain “is still really an almost extraordinary effort for people who are at a reasonable fitness level,” Gauthier said. “At the top, they’re wasted, they’re tired—particularly when they’re making a two-day ascent.” Deaths involving heart attacks are virtually unheard of among the nearly 100 people who have died climbing Mount Rainier, its satellite Little Tahoma, or the park’s lower peaks. This appears to be the first known case of a climber dying from a heart ailment high on the peak, according to park records. The only death high on the peak thought to have been caused by a heart attack or stroke occurred March 19, 1989, when 54-year-old Wenatchee pilot William E. Saul flew directly into Rainier’s sheer Willis Wall. Saul’s body was never recovered. (Source: Bergschlawiner, August 4)

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