European group, helicopter rescue unconscious McKinley climber

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002

TALKEETNA (AP) -- A Massachusetts solo climber was rescued Monday on Mount McKinley after European climbers found him unconscious at the 19,500-foot level.

Joshua Wax, 26, of Sunderland, Mass., was found at the ''Football Field,'' a relatively flat, snowy expanse just more than 800 feet in elevation below the summit.

The European climbers, part of more than one expedition, were heading toward the summit, according to national Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin. One of the climbers was a physician who determined that Wax was suffering from severe altitude illness, hypothermia and frostbite.

The physician treated Wax with medication for high altitude cerebral edema. After receiving the medication, Wax regained consciousness but remained disoriented and unable to walk.

At that time, a climber descended to the 17,200-foot camp to notify park service rangers.

The park service sent a six-member ground rescue team from the camp at about 3:45 p.m., plus a weather observation plane and the Lama high altitude helicopter under contract to the agency.

Climbers carried Wax to the 19,400-foot level, where the Lama picked him up. The Lama arrived before the ground rescue team and flew Wax, attached to a 100-foot shorthaul rope, down to the 7,200-foot Kahiltna Glacier base camp.

''The clouds cooperated once they were up there,'' McLaughlin said.

Wax was briefly treated by park service staff at the base camp. A volunteer mountaineering ranger escorted Wax to Talkeetna on board a fixed wing aircraft.

At about 8 p.m., a LifeGuard helicopter from Providence Hospital transported Wax to Anchorage for further medical care.

Three Austrians, two or three Germans and one Spaniard assisted in the rescue, McLaughlin said, and they remain on the mountain.

McLaughlin said officials do not know if Wax had reached the summit or if he was ascending when he lost consciousness.

''We might piece together some more information,'' she said. ''At this time we don't know.''

As of Monday night, 505 climbers were on Mount McKinley, including about 10 park service rangers or volunteers.

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