Climbers Involved in Mt. McKinley Rescue Identified
Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
Two remaining injured climbers were evacuated from the 17,200-foot high camp on Mt. McKinley in the afternoon of Friday, May 13. Mountain Trip guide Dave Staeheli, age 56, of Wasilla, Alaska and client Lawrence Cutler, age 45, of Croton-on-Hudson, New York, suffered from frostbite to the hands and feet after a night spent at high elevation in cold temperatures and gusty winds. Staeheli also sustained a broken rib. On Friday afternoon it was determined that the two men could not safely descend the mountain on foot, so a helicopter evacuation was initiated. Both men were individually shorthauled from the 17,200-foot camp to the 14,200-foot camp by NPS ranger John Loomis and B3 helicopter pilot Andy Hermansky. From there, the helicopter flew them down to the Kahiltna Basecamp for a fixed wing flight back to Talkeetna.
On the previous night of May 12, fellow teammate Jeremiah O'Sullivan, age 40, of Ballinhassig, Ireland, was rescued from 19,500-feet on Mt. McKinley with a broken leg and severe frostbite to the legs, hands, and face. The fourth member of the rope team, 38-year-old Beat Niederer of St. Gallen, Switzerland died from unknown causes near 18,000 feet. Neiderer's body was recovered late Thursday night via helicopter shorthaul.
An additional client who had turned back along with a guide earlier during the day of the summit bid due to frostbite on his fingers was evacuated from the 14,200-foot camp by the NPS Thursday afternoon. He has been identified as Tony Diskin of Westmeath, Ireland.
The National Park Service is currently in the process of debriefing the individuals who survived the incident. A Serious Accident Investigation Team will be looking into the events leading up to this tragic outcome.
Did You Know?
The vast landscapes of interior Alaska are changing. Large glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting and woody plants are spreading. Comparison of "then-and-now" photographs and data from major vegetation monitoring should allow detection, understanding and potential management of these changes.