Injured Irish climber rescued from Alaska mountain

An injured Irish climber was recovering in hospital today after being rescued by helicopter from Alaska’s Mount McKinley.

The National Park Service identified the climber as Jeremiah O’Sullivan, 40, of Ballinhassig, Co Cork.

He was pulled off the mountain on Thursday at 19,500 feet by helicopter pilot Andy Hermansky, who lowered a basket from 200 feet above the injured man.

The Anchorage Daily News said the rescue tied the highest-ever by a helicopter in North America.

A member of Mr O’Sullivan’s party, 38-year-old Beat Niederer of St Gallen, Switzerland, died from unknown causes near 18,000 feet. Mr Neiderer’s body was recovered late on Thursday by helicopter.

On Friday afternoon, guide Dave Staeheli, 56, of Wasilla, Alaska, and climber Lawrence Culter, 45, of Croton-on-Hudson, New York were also evacuated by helicopter from a high camp at 17,200 feet.

Mr Sullivan was in “good” condition at Providence Alaska Medical Centre in Anchorage, said hospital spokeswoman Ginger Houghton.

He suffered frostbite to his hands, legs and face as well as a broken leg. Mr Staeheli and Mr Cutler had frostbite to their hands and feet.

Mr Staeheli, who also broke a rib in a fall, is renowned as the first climber to complete a solo winter ascent of McKinley up the West Rib route in March 1989.

Mount McKinley, at 20,320 feet is the highest peak in North America and the US.

The death was the first this year on Mount McKinley. Two climbers died last year. The climbing season began unofficially on May 1.

The climbers were part of an expedition that included a guide and three clients on a rope team.

That team fell while descending from the summit ridge either late Wednesday or early Thursday, National Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said.

What is known is that conditions were brutal – with winds gusting up to 70mph on the mountain when the climbers fell, and they stayed that way for the next 12 to 14 hours delaying a rescue, mountaineering ranger and medic Dave Weber said.

The climbing party was high up on the mountain and on an exposed ridge with no shelter when the fall occurred, he said.

“It was brutal conditions out there,” Mr Weber said. “It was an extremely hostile environment.”

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