Saturday, May 21, 2011

Irish Climber Rescued from Denali

On Thursday, May 12, 2011, climber Jeremiah O’Sullivan, 40, of Ballinhassig, County Cork, Ireland was plucked off Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Mt. McKinley is also known as Denali, which in the language Koyukon Athabaskan means "The High One" in English. O'Sullivan was able to manuever into a basket which was lowered 200 feet from a hovering helicopter.

He had broken his leg from a fall climbing a ridge with three other climbers near the 20,320-foot summit. The rescue itself took place at approximately 19,500 feet. This may have been the highest helicopter rescue ever in North America. With temperature effects the helicopter can only power to approximately 20,000 feet and the pilot must wear oxygen.

A 38-year-old Swiss climbing companion named Beat Niederer, a member of O’Sullivan’s party, who was found dead near 18,000 feet after becoming separated from climbing partner Lawrence Cutler, 45, of New York. He apparently died while the two were trying to descend to a camp at 17,200 feet after the fall. The guide, Dave Staeheli, 56, of Wasilla, had stayed with O’Sullivan until O'Sullivan's rescue.

The helicopter pilot, Andreas Hermansky, who learned how to fly in Austira, may have used the basket to rescue O'Sullivan because the ground was too steep to land safely or because the downwash from the helicopter would create whiteout conditions blinding him from landing safely.

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