Alaska, Denali National Park, Mount McKinley, West Buttress
On the evening of June 6, the Russian Denali Expedition requested the assistance of the NPS volunteer doctor at the 17,200-foot camp on the West Buttress of Mount McKinley because one member of the team was ill. Upon investigation, Dr. McLean discovered Ludmila Korobeshko (29) sick with acute mountain sickness and possibly high altitude pulmonary edema. Reichert and McLean escorted Korobeshko down to the 14,200-foot ranger camp where she remained on oxygen for 30 hours before descending with her team to basecamp.
During and interview with Dr. McLean, Korobeshko stated that she had had a persistent headache during her two days at 14,200-foot camp. In hindsight it appears that Korobeshko had acute mountain sickness beginning at this camp. Climbers need to be honest with themselves and their partners with regards to their health. Korobeshko should have rested at the 14,200-foot camp until she felt 100 percent.
The National Park Service recommends a time line for ascending the West Buttress that provides most climbers adequate acclimatization. The prescribed time is ten to 13 days up to the high camp at 17,200 feet. The Russian team moved to this camp on their 9th day on the mountain and climbed to the summit on their 9th day. It is fortunate that more of the team did not get seriously ill.
Every year there are some who will push themselves to climb Mount McKinley as fast as they can. While some succeed without event, the consequence of becoming sick high on the mountain can be fatal.