Solo Climber With "Signs of Mental Illness" Plucked Off Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve

A Pennsylvania man who exhibited "signs of mental illness" was plucked off of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve by military crews and taken to a Fairbanks hospital, according to park officials.

The 25-year-old was solo climbing and had reached the mountain's 14,200-foot basecamp when rangers decided he was a threat to both himself and other climbers, a park release said.

Prior to flying to the Kahiltna Basecamp, the unidentified man told a Talkeetna resident that he intended to paraglide from the summit, an activity prohibited by federal regulation in Denali. When park staff members in Talkeetna were informed of this, rangers confronted the individual who signed an affidavit saying that he would not bring his paragliding equipment on the mountain, park officials said.

"After he began his ascent of the West Buttress on June 28, other climbing parties on the route made numerous reports to rangers that the soloist demonstrated unsafe glacier travel, a lack of appropriate gear, improper disposal of human waste, littering, and
unusual inter-personal interactions," the officials reported.

"When he reached the 14,200-foot camp, Denali mountaineering volunteers and rangers evaluated the climber, who was cold, wet, and in distress. While treating the man for hypothermia, rangers discovered paragliding equipment in his sled," they added. "The paraglider was seized, at which time the individual’s behavior and language grew increasingly unusual and erratic. Two NPS volunteer medical professionals at the camp consulted over a 24-hour-period by telephone with the park’s medical director in Anchorage about their patient observations. A determination was made that the patient’s behavior and condition presented a potential risk to his life and others."

Under provisions of Alaska State law, a 72-hour protective custody order was prepared by the medical director in Anchorage. Since it was deemed dangerous to transport "a mentally unstable person within the small confined cabin of the park’s high altitude helicopter, Denali staff requested military assistance through Alaska’s Rescue Coordination Center."

"Two Army Chinook CH 47 helicopters from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Ft. Wainwright responded to Talkeetna on the morning of July 7 and transported two Denali
law enforcement rangers to the 14,200-foot camp," the park officials reported.

"NPS personnel at the camp had the individual strapped and secured on a backboard when the single Chinook landed early in the afternoon. The individual was placed in the aircraft and flown directly back to Ft. Wainwright. Alaska State Troopers assisted the park by taking custody of the individual on the ground and transporting him to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital."