William Hearne 05-07-09
61-year-old climber collapses and dies on way up Denali
By CRAIG MEDRED, email@example.com
Published: May 8th, 2009
The climbing season on North America's tallest mountain has barely begun, and already
Mount McKinley has claimed its first victim.
The National Park Service reported today that 61-year-old William Hearne died on
the approach climb along Kahiltna Glacier to the 14,000-foot camp on the mountain.
The terrain on the way to 14,000 feet is not overly steep, but the ever-increasing
altitude from base camp at 7,200 takes a toll on even the most physically fit.
Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin reported Hearne, of Fairport, N.Y.,
was with a guided expedition traveling near Windy Corner on Thursday when he collapsed
and then died, apparently of natural causes.
Windy Corner is named for the ferocious winds that sometimes develop there, but
it is beautiful place when the weather is mild. It was reportedly a good day for
climbing there Thursday, with winds of less than 20 mph and the temperature around
Hearne was with six members of an expedition guided by Mountain Trip. They were
ferrying supplies upward from an informal campground at 11,200 feet, below what
is called Motorcyle Hill, and it is standard to carry equipment from that camp to
just past Windy Corner, cache it, then return to camp to rest for the day.
For days on end, McKinley climbers make these up-and-back climbs from camp to camp
to get enough food, fuel and gear in position to support an eventual assault on
the summit. None of the ferrying climbs are thought of as particularly dangerous,
although there are always risks of falling in a crevasse or, in a few places, slipping
and plummeting off the West Buttress.
Hearne, however, apparently just collapsed.
McLaughlin reported he was near 13,500 feet, returning toward the 11,200 camp, when
Hearne went down at about 4 p.m. Mount McKinley's summit is at 20,320 feet.
"The expedition guides immediately began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation
(CPR) and were soon assisted by two National Park Service mountaineering rangers
who happened to be at Windy Corner retrieving gear," she said. "CPR was performed
for over 30 minutes, but Hearne never regained a pulse."
Dozens of climbers are often on McKinley's West Buttress route this time of year,
and a variety of Park Service personnel were among them Thursday. McLaughlin said
a paramedic and a nurse who were climbing with a Park Service patrol were on the
scene with Hearne by 4:30 p.m., but they, too, were unable to help.
Shortly after 4:30, she said, the paramedic and the nurse consulted with a Park
Service-sponsored doctor by cell phone, and Hearne was pronounced dead.
The Mountain Trip climbers headed back to their camp. Park Service rangers stayed
to secure Hearne's body at 13,500 feet, awaiting a helicopter evacuation.
More than 150 climbers are now on the mountain, McLaughlin said, but the climbing
season is barely beginning. More than 1,050 are registered to climb in the months
Ten mountaineers have attempted to summit so far. Eight have succeeded.