INADEQUATE FOOD, NO WORKING STOVES
Alaska, Mount McKinley, Cassin Ridge
On June 11, two climbers (38 and 40) attempting the Cassin Ridge requested a rescue when they ran out of food and water and had no working stoves. They called on FRS and reported that they had “no energy and we cannot go up.” At this time they asked, “We wonder if possible a rescue.”
A helicopter launched around 1830 from Talkeetna. The climbers were located on a steep slope, and so the drop target was a lower-angled garden of rocks about 100 feet above them. The first drop hit the target perfectly, but it proved to be too steep and the supplies slid down the entirety of Denali’s Southwest Face. The second drop, positioned just above the first, did exactly the same. Papa Hotel (name of the helicopter) descended to base camp to re-supply and reassess its target. Two more loads were created, both of which were tied on to the end of 100-foot ropes. Papa Hotel ascended and lowered the first load directly to the climbers, who retrieved it without problem. Papa Hotel then descended to base camp and then returned to Talkeetna.
The climbers used the re-supply to ascend the rest of the Cassin the next day. They then safely descended the West Buttress route and arrived 24 hours after reaching the top of the Cassin. Upon returning to base camp, the two were observed to be in good spirits—with much energy and no apparent injuries or illnesses.
In this situation there appeared to be cultural/national differences over what “emergencies” constitute proper grounds for a rescue. There also appeared to be different expectations for the attainability and possibility of rescue on Denali. Denali Mountaineering Rangers attempt to educate climbers that rescues are dangerous, difficult, and not very commonly possible. However, many climbers still assume that if things go bad, they’ll be picked up by the helicopter without any problem.
We hope that further education and using this situation as a lesson will prevent this from happening again to them and others.