Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for May 21, 2013

Chopper plucks two stranded climbers from Kluane park

Two mountain climbers were rescued by helicopter Sunday in Kluane National Park after having been stranded by weather for five days with minimal supplies.

By Chuck Tobin on May 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Two mountain climbers were rescued by helicopter Sunday in Kluane National Park after having been stranded by weather for five days with minimal supplies.

Paul Knott, 45, of New Zealand, and Derek Buckle, 68 of England, were pulled off Mount Eaton at 6 a.m. by Trans North helicopter pilot Dion Parker and Kluane rescue team member Scott Stewart, Parks Canada superintendent Anne Morin said this morning.

“I understand they did not have the ability to use their stove so they could not melt water,” she told the Star.

“So when they got to Haines Junction, they were a little dehydrated and malnourished, and one fellow had some minor frostbite.”

Morin said both were taken to the local nursing station and later released.

The park’s safety team of Scott Stewart, Craig McKinnon and Sarah Chisholm, working in communication with the Banff, Alta. mountain rescue centre, are to be commended, Morin said.

Parker, who just received his high altitude rescue certification last week, is also to be commended, she added.

“We are just really, really proud of our rescue team and pilot.”

McKinnon said the park was notified at 3 p.m. last Wednesday by the Banff rescue centre after the climbers contacted the centre with their satellite phone, in keeping with Kluane Park emergency procedure.

A technical climbing team was on standby in Banff, but it was deemed the rescue was not a technical matter, but one that would require a break in the weather more than anything, McKinnon explained in an interview this morning.

He said the Kluane team, Banff and the stranded climbers stayed in contact the whole time.

Knott and Buckle were hit with bad weather during their descent of Mount Eaton. near the U.S.-Canada border.

Using satellite information and in speaking with the climbers directly at 5 a.m. Sunday, it was determined there was enough visibility to make the rescue attempt, McKinnon said.

“They said they could see other mountains in the area, and that was key for the pilot to understand the situation, so we did make an attempt at 6 a.m.”

McKinnon said bad weather made it impossible to make an attempt prior to Sunday.

Knott and Buckle, he said, had come into the park from the Alaska side, and set up their base camp at 1,217 metres (3,992 feet).

Last Tuesday, they had ascended along steep terrain to the top Mount Eaton at 3,202 metres (10,505 feet). It was on their descent when a low-pressure system rolled in off the Gulf of Alaska, McKinnon said.

Knott and Buckle decided to hunker down and make camp at the 2,121-metre (8,600-foot) level on a small flat area along a ridge-top.

“It’s a dangerous route, and if you can’t see anything, you just can’t sort of feel your way down because it is kind of steep there,” McKinnon said.

The low pressure system, he said, basically parked itself over top of the climbers who had only planned for a day hike to the top of Mount Eaton, but did have a tent and minimal supplies with them.

“The weather conditions were quite severe,” he said. “Within two days, it had snowed 16 feet.”

McKinnon said the climbers could not use their stove outside and didn’t want to use it inside the tent, but were able to melt a little bit of snow inside just with the warmth inside the tent.

The climbers went back to Haines, Alaska and were expected to fly into Mount Eaton sometime this week to retrieve their base camp, he said, adding what little was left behind at their camp on the mountainside will remain there.

McKinnon said weather this year and last year has played a big factor in the lack of successful climbs.

Of the eight parties who’ve returned from the climbs since the Kluane park climbing season began in April, three have reported achieving their goals.

He said some have spent their two weeks simply waiting for a break in the weather that never came.

There are currently seven parties for a total of 21 climbers and glacier skiers inside the park, he said.

He said of the seven parties, five are on Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada at 5,959 metres (19,551 feet).

One is on Mount Queen Mary (3,938 metres) and one is on Mount Walsh (4,507 metres).

Normally, said McKinnon, 80 per cent of the climbers visiting Kluane park are on Mount Logan.

This year, however, there’s a greater variety of mountains being climbed, more than he has seen in his 20 years at the park.

McKinnon said there were between 200 and 250 climbers last year.

CommentsAdd a comment

PFP

May 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

hand them the bill.
don’t go into the bush / mountains if you don’t know how to survive / return safely.

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