|Denali National Park
Long Line Lowering On Mt. McKinley
June 30, 2007
Mountaineering rangers and volunteers used a customized 3,000-foot PMI rope to lower a sick climber from the mountain's 17,200-foot high camp to the 14,200 foot ranger camp on June 30th. Masamichi Kobayashi, 65, had developed snow blindness while descending from the peak's 20,320-foot summit, slowing the four-person team's progress considerably and forcing them to camp out above Denali Pass at 18,500 feet.¬Ý When they descended to high camp the following morning, an NPS ranger patrol performed a medical evaluation of the climber.¬Ý While being treated for snow blindness and exhaustion, Kobayashi began to display signs of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and his condition rapidly deteriorated. Although weather conditions were clear and calm at high camp, low elevation cloud cover precluded a helicopter evacuation; a technical lowering was therefore begun. Ranger Tucker Chenoweth directed the lowering from the top of the 3,000-foot long line, while volunteer ranger Mike Loso attended Kobayashi, who was packaged in a Cascade Advance Series Model 200 Litter.¬Ý Loso and Kobayashi were lowered 2,200-feet down the 30- to 55-degree slope in less than three hours.¬Ý Where the terrain levels off at 15,000 feet, Kobayashi was met by ranger Kevin Wright and volunteer Ben Habecker, who skied the litter down to the 14,200-foot ranger camp. The entire transport time for the patient from camp to camp was four hours. In former years, ranger staff used multiple shorter ropes and corresponding anchoring systems to lower a patient. This method on average took between eight and ten hours and required six to ten rescuers.¬Ý In 2001, the single 3,000-foot rope system was developed to enable safer and significantly faster rescues while putting fewer people in danger.¬Ý This long line rescue took place in the midst of a lively week for rescue staff at the park, who had to deal with four helicopter evacuations and one ground rescue in the four day stretch from June 27th to June 30th.