Illness and Frostbite (Two Incidents), Washington, Mount Rainier

Publication Year: 2012.


Washington, Mount Rainier

While on a summit climb on the morning of July 13 about 9:00 a.m., Dr. Walter Leonard (56) experienced extreme pain in his right abdomen and back. The climbers accompanying him called the NPS Ranger Nick Hall, who was on duty at Camp Muir, and explained that their patient was non-ambulatory and in extreme pain. Ranger Hall called Climbing Ranger Supervisor, Brian Hasebe, who became Incident Commander. The 214th General Support Aviation Brigade at joint base Ft. Lewis-McChord was called and accepted the mission to retrieve Dr. Leonard.

Meanwhile another incident unfolded within the same party. Sergeant Derek Ford (23) who was at 10,800 feet on the Disappointment Cleaver, began suffering from frostbite at the end of a leg that had been amputated. So these two injuries were communicated to the US Army Reserve unit at Ft. Lewis-McChord. The NPS and USAR formulated a plan to extricate both injured parties. Because of a cloud deck around Mount Rainier, rangers drove to Ft. Lewis where they briefed and boarded the US Army Reserve CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Rangers Philippe Wheelock, Chris Kalman, and Jonathon Bowman flew from Ft. Lewis to the summit and picked up one patient. Then they flewto 10,800 feet and used the hoist and jungle penetrator to extricate the second patient. The patients and rangers were transported back to Madigan Army Medical Center.

As an aside note, many of the guide services were involved in this operation due to the fact that this was the Camp Patriot summit climb which is a benefit climb for disabled veterans. Many of the guide services had been donating their own employees or resources in a volunteer capacity. Some of the party leaders were former guide service employees. The guides were the initial reporting parties and with the patients until the rangers took over during the extrication process. (Source: Brian Hasebe – Park Ranger and Mount Rainier News Releases)

(Editor’s Note: this is a good illustration of how the park’s rangers and support services such as Fort Lewis-McChord work together to provide help for climbers - and hikers - in need.)

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