American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

HAPE — Exacerbated by Pre-Existing Chest Cold, Washington, Mount Rainier, Emmons Route

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2011


Washington, Mount Rainier, Emmons Route

On July 11 at 0930, Mount Rainier National Park received a distress call from three climbers high (13,500-foot level) on the Emmons Route. One of the climbers (30) was having difficulty walking and was showing signs and symptoms of high altitude pulmonary edema. Climbing Ranger Brian Hasebe was dispatched from the summit to respond and arrived on scene at 1015. The climber had passed out four times prior to caregiver arrival and six times post arrival. He was belayed and short-roped down the mountain with the assistance of two other park visitors. Climbing Ranger Jeremy Shank responded from Camp Schurman with additional medical supplies, including oxygen, which was administered at a flow rate of 12 LPM at 1330. While the patient’s condition improved dramatically with the lower altitude and oxygen, his condition deteriorated rapidly with cessation of administered oxygen. The latter consideration strongly reinforced the decision to fly the patient from Camp Schurman immediately instead of arranging a time-and personnel-intensive ground evacuation. David Gottlieb coordinated helicopter operations, and the climber was airlifted by Northwest Helicopters from Camp Schurman at 1500 and transferred to an ALS unit.


A preexisting medical condition (chest cold) strongly predisposed the climber to high altitude pulmonary edema. Once he succumbed to the condition, he was unable to self-evacuate, and without the assistance of nearby climbers, his condition would have necessitated a time-intensive rescue from the summit. Fortunately, a climbing ranger was already at the summit, descending an adjacent route, and was able to respond and coordinate the evacuation effort. (Source: Brian Hasebe, Climbing Ranger)

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