Medical Fatality Occurs on Denali’s West Buttress

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Date: June 15, 2016
Contact: Maureen Gualtieri, (907) 733-9103

TALKEETNA, AK:  A member of a 4-person climbing party succumbed to an unknown medical illness high on Denali’s West Buttress route the morning of June 14.  Another independent team had encountered the distressed party at 2:30 a.m. somewhere between 18,400 feet and 19,000 feet during their descent. At that point, the patient had an altered mental status and was non-ambulatory. 

The descending team provided initial assistance, and then made the decision to continue down to the high camp at 17,200-feet for additional help. At high camp, they used a satellite phone to contact the Alaska Regional Communication Center at 5:30 a.m. to alert park rescue personnel.

Denali National Park launched the high altitude A-Star B3e helicopter from Talkeetna at 7:45 a.m. under clear skies. After an initial reconnaissance flight to the upper mountain, the helicopter pilot flew back to the 18,400-foot elevation with a short-haul rescue basket. The teammates loaded the patient into the basket, and the climber was short-hauled down to the 14,200-foot camp. 

Upon initial assessment, NPS and military rescue personnel at the 14,200-foot camp did not detect a pulse. They loaded the patient internally in the helicopter and two Air National Guard Pararescuemen began resuscitation efforts during the flight down to the Kahiltna Basecamp at 7,200 feet. They continued advanced life support (ALS) care at basecamp, but the patient was pronounced deceased at 9:40 a.m. The patient’s remains were then flown to Talkeetna and subsequently transferred to the State of Alaska Medical Examiner. 

The climber’s name will be released once family members are notified overseas.  

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Last updated: June 15, 2016

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