Alaska, Mount McKinley, West Buttress
On June 29 Stefan Jeronin (40), a client of Mountain Trip, collapsed below Denali Pass about 18,000 feet. He was treated on the hill for HACE symptoms and short-roped down to the 17,200-foot camp on the West Buttress, where he was further evaluated by NPS Rangers. It was determined that Jeronin could descend under his own power with short-rope assistance. Jeronin was advised to descend immediately and to be evaluated again by NPS Rangers at the 14,200-foot camp. Showing no additional signs or symptoms, Jeronin descended under his own power with his guide to the 7,200-foot basecamp, where he was flown out by fixed wing to Talkeetna.
Summit day on Mount McKinley is a difficult day, both physically and mentally, for everyone, and the extra performance one demands from the body and mind above 17,000 feet are extreme. Jeronin was physically and mentally tired and his body responded accordingly. At 17,800 feet, his condition was treated as altitude illness, and he was escorted to lower altitudes. His diagnosis was inconclusive, but the treatment remains the same at high elevation. Descend, descend, descend. (Source: Edited from a report by Tucker Chenoweth)
(Editor’s Note: While not counted as an accident, this case is presented for its valuable lesson.)