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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
A Canadian climber was evacuated from the West Rib route of Mt. McKinley on Thursday afternoon, May 27. Luc Benoit, age 40 of Montreal, reportedly fell 1,000 feet while solo climbing the technically challenging West Rib route the evening of May 26. Unable to safely ascend or descend from his elevation at 14,000 feet due to an injured shoulder and a loss of gear, the following morning Benoit radioed for assistance from Denali National Park mountaineering rangers. At midday, the park’s A-Star B3 helicopter flew to the site with Denali mountaineering ranger Tucker Chenoweth on board. Unable to find a suitable landing zone, helicopter pilot Andy Hermansky performed what is known as a ‘toe-in’ landing maneuver, a stabilized hover technique in which only the tips of the skids touch down on the snow. Benoit was swiftly evacuated to the Kahiltna Basecamp at 7,200 feet where he was examined by an NPS volunteer physician, then flown to Talkeetna in a fixed wing aircraft and released from NPS care.
Three additional air evacuations occurred earlier in the week. On the night of May 20, NPS rangers treated a guided client for high altitude pulmonary edema at the 17,200-foot camp. The following day, rangers assisted the patient down to the 14,200-foot camp, from where he was evacuated on May 22 when his condition did not sufficiently improve. On May 24, a non-ambulatory climber suffering from severe altitude illness was treated and evacuated from the 14,200-foot camp. His symptoms quickly resolved once he reached Talkeetna. Lastly, a climber experiencing acute pain and illness related to a kidney stone was evacuated from the 7,800-foot camp on the West Buttress on Wednesday evening May 26. The park helicopter transported him back to Talkeetna and transferred him to a ground ambulance for further medical care at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center.
Denali mountaineering operations reach their peak this week. As of May 27, 452 mountaineers are currently climbing Mt. McKinley. So far this season, 165 climbers have completed their expeditions, 39% of which reached the mountain’s summit.