A Canadian climber was evacuated from the West Rib route of Mt. McKinley on Thursday afternoon. 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. He suffered an injured shoulder and needed the help of the park’s rangers and the rescue helicopter. Denali mountaineering ranger Tucker Chenoweth and 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 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. NPS rangers treated a guided client for high altitude pulmonary edema at the 17,200-foot camp. He was evacuated 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.
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.