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Frostbite, AMS, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

FROSTBITE, AMS

Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

In the early morning of May 14, the team New River George contacted NPS personnel stationed at the 14,200-foot camp and alerted them about a climbing party called Team Homer Company. The former had been monitoring Homer’s descent and believed they were calling for help. NPS personnel monitored the situation and determined that the climbers were indeed calling for help. After making NPS personnel in Talkeetna aware of the situation, rangers at the 14,200-foot camp mobilized available resources and devised a strategy to respond to Team Homer Company’s location.

Around 0300 a team consisting of NPS patrol members and emergency hired independent climbers left for their suspected location. Shortly there after as daylight allowed they were spotted by rangers and subsequently met by the ground team that had departed the 14,200-foot camp.

After being accompanied back, the climbers were evaluated by NPS medical personnel and it was determined that one of the two, Steve Normandin (29) was suffering from frostbite to both hands, both feet, and his nose. He also had signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). He was admitted for additional medical care and observation at 0500.

NPS patrol member Keith Thompson, MD, began treatment that included rapid rewarming of the patient’s hands and feet as well as the use of Toradol for pain relief after rewarming the extremities where appropriately medicated and dressed. On the afternoon of May 14, the patient was released from NPS medical care and began the descent to the 7,200-foot camp for transport to Talkeetna.

Analysis

Though Team Homer Company would later claim not to have been calling for help, it appeared to those present at the 14,200-foot camp that not only were they calling for help, they were making desperate pleas for assistance. Decisions to put personnel in the field to assist with a potential rescue are not ones that are made in haste or taken lightly. Everything that was presented to NPS personnel at the time led them to believe that indeed

Team Homer Company was in a dire situation. In the end, they did end up requiring NPS assistance whether or not they had originally called for it. (Source: Ranger John Leonard)