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AMS and Fracture, Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress


Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress

In June, lead guide Bill Allen of the guiding concession Mountain Trip brought client Joanne Devenish (42) to the 14,200-foot medical camp because she was turned around short of the summit, about 19,700 feet. The guides subsequently brought her down to the 14,200-foot camp for medical evaluation. After this patient was treated, lead guide Vern Tejas of Alpine Ascents International asked the Ranger staff to examine client Rosemary Zimmerman (49) who had sustained a lower leg injury while descending the fixed lines. Both were treated and flown off the mountain three days later. Analysis

The Mountain Trip client started having respiratory difficulty while on a summit bid. Her guides, against her protests, turned her around and descended to the 17,200-foot high camp and started a Diamox regime of treatment. Her condition did not improve so the entire expedition descended to the 14,200-foot medical camp.

This climbing group had adhered to a reasonable ascent schedule. The patient had not exhibited any signs of AMS previously. Devenish stated that she had experienced approximately two hours of blurred vision near the summit, but that it had cleared up upon descent. She was unable to maintain oxygen saturation and had to be placed on high-flow oxygen to assist with respirations. For this reason, it was determined that the patient would be unable to safely descend the mountain under her own power. She was evacuated via the Lama helicopter on June 26, along with Zimmerman, who was also unable to walk down.

Injuries and illnesses are to be expected during a mountaineering expedition and, unfortunately, can occur regardless of planning. What is significant with these two cases is that both clients were evacuated/assisted down to the 14,200-foot medical camp without NPS assistance. In the case of the Mountain Trip expedition, the guides recognized a potentially fatal medical condition occurring and, against their client’s desires, brought her down safely to a place where she could receive medical care.

Both groups demonstrated self-sufficiency and good judgment. In addition, in both cases guides remained with their clients until their conditions were resolved. (Source: Daryl Miller, South District Ranger)