June 5th, 2021

— During a recent mountaineering expedition on Mount Bona starting on May 25th, 2021, two clients exhibited symptoms of altitude sickness and one client got minor frostbite on his fingers. The guides administered medical care with the consult of our company doctor via SAT phone, descended to their basecamp, and the process to extract the ill clients had begun. Because inclement weather conditions prevented the usual pickup logistics, the organization of the extraction was passed on, per normal procedures, to the National Park Service (NPS), and later to the AKRCC (Alaska Rescue Coordination Center). The RCC’s teams attempted to land on the Klutlan Glacier many times throughout several days but a prolonged storm, high winds, and heavy snowfall prevented them from getting in. The patients were being cared for by their guides and the rest of the team was prepared with ample food, fuel, and supplies to stay on the Klutlan Glacier through their scheduled pick-up date and even longer. The RCC later sent an aircraft with a larger capacity and when they were finally able to land, the rest of the team took advantage of an earlier pickup and joined the patients in their evacuation with the guides being dropped off in McCarthy. After a debrief with our guides and company doctor, we are pleased to say that we are very proud of our guides for their hard work administering exemplary client care and have taken notes to improve some details of our expeditions in the future. We are very thankful for local, state, and NPS resources that worked in tandem to achieve the successful transport of the patients off the Klutlan Glacier. We have been asked by the client group to withhold public comment and out of respect for their privacy, we will not be releasing further information about their trip.

When heading into the mountains our teams are as prepared as they can be for everything mother nature is likely to throw at them, but even when you do everything right you still can’t control the weather. Out here in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park all climbing and skiing is done in a wilderness style – the teams must be completely self-sufficient as there are no major basecamp scenes, no fixed lines on the mountains, no heavy air traffic overhead, and no weather stations around for (sometimes) hundreds of miles! Our guides are trained in this environment specifically for this reason and love the challenges that true wilderness presents. It is also integral that our clients prepare and train for their trip, both mentally and physically, as our trips are often more challenging than other expeditions they’ve been on, even if they’re at a lower elevation. We climb and ski these peaks out of our passion for adventure and exploration, not to check a box, and attract clients with similar ambitions – exploring the summits of our incredible mountain kingdom!

We have had numerous questions about how we prepare for high-altitude expeditions and what would occur if a rescue was needed. All of our teams have enough food and fuel to stay 3-7 days past their scheduled pick-up date, depending on the trip and its location. In the event of an emergency where evacuation is needed, we work with local and State resources to organize a swift and efficient evacuation. Every expedition is different and every rescue is even more unique. We are grateful to have a highly trained staff, an incredible company doc, specializing in wilderness and high-altitude medicine, exceptionally talented pilots, a resourceful community, a supportive NPS staff, and abundant and high-grade resources provided by the state and US Military. Some rescues and evacuations are done completely in-house while others may involve a coordinated effort of multiple individuals and/or agencies, and each is unique to its situation. Our goal is to keep our clients and guides as safe as possible and organize efficient help when needed.

For any further questions on how we organize and prepare for high-altitude mountaineering expeditions, please reach out to info@steliasguides.com


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