I apologize for the delay in posting, but the NPS requested that we keep mum until we all had more information about a situation that unfolded during yesterday’s summit attempt. At this time, we are not permitted to share any names, so I deeply apologize in advance for the anxiety I am certain this will raise.
During yesterday’s summit attempt, a climber was injured in a fall high on the mountain and he and one other climber ended up spending the night out above High Camp. The National Park Service, in conjunction with a military pararescue team, are conducting a rescue as I type.
Yesterday morning, guides Dave Staeheli, Henry Munter and four climbers left for the summit on what can only be described as a beautiful day. Reports from early evening were that there was no wind and relatively warm temperatures. At about 18,200′ at a site called Denali Pass, one climber elected to turn back, and Henry accompanied him back to High Camp.
At some point after 8 pm Alaska Time, the winds rapidly began to increase and the team turned around before reaching the summit. On the descent from the summit ridge, a climber apparently fell and suffered a broken leg. Dave’s radio had not been functioning, so he could not call for assistance with the non-ambulatory climber. As they were on relatively steep terrain in increasing wind, he apparently advised the two ambulatory climbers to continue the descent while he assisted the injured climber. He lowered the climber down the steep slope and bundled him as best as he could, including placing him in a bivouac sack, or a windproof, lightly insulated sleeping bag of sorts.
As he had no means of communicating with our guide at High Camp, he began a rapid descent with the intent of catching up with the two other climbers. In the strong winds, which were estimated at 60+ mph, he apparently passed them and arrived at High Camp to learn that they were still on the upper mountain. Dave slipped at one point and is currently at High Camp with a broken rib and frostbite on his hands.
One of the two climbers descended much of the way down the long traverse above High Camp known as the Autobahn in the maelstrom and guide Jack McGee, along with a guide from a neighboring AMS party climbed up to assist him the rest of the way. He is also in High Camp, ambulatory, but with some frostbite.
The climber who descended from Denali Pass was flown off the mountain with moderate frostbite to his hands to Talkeetna, where he was net by Mountain Trip staff. He is currently receiving treatment in Anchorage.
One more is in good health at 14,200′ and will descend with the remainder of the team as soon as possible.
At this time, two climbers are being rescued from the upper mountain. The fellow with the broken leg was seen earlier waving at a C-130 aircraft that circled to assess the situation and gauge winds, which were clocked at 70 mph earlier today.
Let’s all think warm thoughts and send our prayers to the climbers up high and to the rescue team that is mobilized to help them.