Knee Injury, Inexperience, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

Publication Year: 2004.


Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

On May 30, the two members of the Sled Dog expedition, Matt Sachs (34) and June Braugham (40) were evacuated from the 14,200-foot camp on Denali. On the 29th, Sachs sustained a knee injury while climbing to the fixed lines and requested ranger assistance to descend. Sachs was lowered approximately 1,200 feet by NPS personnel to the 14,200-foot Ranger Camp where he received medical assistance for the night. Sachs was flown to 7,000-foot camp the following morning by the Denali Lama helicopter. Due to her very limited mountain experience, Braugham accompanied Sachs to Denali basecamp after it was deemed unsafe for her to continue climbing on the mountain.


It is likely Sachs’ prior knee injury contributed to its final blow-out. By avoiding consecutive days of heavy use on a weakened knee, Sachs could have better monitored the extent of his previous injury. Once evaluated by a doctor, it was determined that Sachs damaged his lateral and medial collateral ligaments. With no additional damage to surrounding ligaments, injury may have resulted from the cumulative use of a sprained knee. Having a CB radio did prove beneficial in expediting a rescue. However, choosing a climbing partner ill-suited for Denali created a compromising situation for the climbing rangers, the National Park Service, June Braugham, and Matt Sachs himself in deciding the safest means of descent for Braugham. (Source: Ranger Karen Hilton)