Dramatic rescue on Mount McKinley
May 17, 2011 By Irish Central
May 17, 2011, Mount McKinley, Ala. - An Irish climber is recovering in hospital after a record making rescue at 19,500 feet from Mount McKinley in Alaska – matching the highest ever by a helicopter.
Corkman Jeremiah O’Sullivan was pulled off the mountain last week amid dramatic scenes following the death of a fellow climber.
The 40-year-old from Ballinhassig in Cork has been hospitalized with a broken leg and severe frostbite.
America’s National Park Service revealed details of the rescue by helicopter pilot Andy Hermansky who lowered a basket to the stricken O’Sullivan some 19,500 feet up the mountain. The Anchorage Daily News reported that the rescue tied the highest-ever by a helicopter in North America.
Fellow climber and Swiss citizen Beat Niederer had died from unknown causes near 18,000 feet and his body was recovered by helicopter.
Alaskan guide Dave Staeheli and climber Lawrence Culter from New York were also evacuated by helicopter from a high camp at 17,200 feet.
Sullivan was reported to be in ‘good condition’ at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage according to hospital spokeswoman Ginger Houghton.
She added that the Irishman had suffered frostbite to his hands, legs and face as well as a broken leg, Staeheli and Cutler suffered frostbite to their hands and feet.
Staeheli is renowned as the first climber to complete a solo winter ascent of McKinley up the West Rib route in March 1989.
Mount McKinley, at 20,320 feet is the highest peak in North America and the United States.
Niederer’s death was the first this year on the mountain but two climbers died last year.
Sullivan’s four man team fell while descending from the summit ridge either late Wednesday or early Thursday according to National Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin.
Conditions on the mountain at the time of their descent were described as brutal with winds gusting up to 70 mph.
Mountaineering ranger and medic Dave Weber said the climbing party was high up on the mountain and on an exposed ridge with no shelter when the fall occurred.
“It was brutal conditions out there. It was an extremely hostile environment,” said Weber.