Part 4, Browne Tower and Rescue

Having got all our gear to Browne Tower we were excited to be in such an awesome position on the route with plenty of food and fuel for a potential summit push from the upper Harper glacier. Our campsite was less than ideal, having carved it out of a 35 degree avy slope, but it worked, and June 30 we moved a cache of gear up to 16,900′. Above Browne tower lies the Harper glacier, a cold, windy place with a reputation for destroying gear, morale, and people, and being the second to last major obstacle of the trip. Moving a cache allowed us to acclimate to the high elevation, build some walls for a future camp, and get a feel for this tough, wild place.
When we got back to camp, the Russian duo we had been concerned about stopped by and asked us to look at one of them. Due to Park Service rules about patient care we knew that assisting this group might have a massive impact on our trip. The team had ascended the route too quickly, and one member showed serious symptoms of both high altitude pulmonary and cereberal edema- potentially life threatening conditions. The morning of July 1 we officially took the patient under our care- his oxygen saturation was in the mid-30s and it was obvious his partner was unable to care for him. We spent the day outlining various options for rescue and waiting for his response to drugs- while a rest day, it wasn’t very restful. It was snowing heavily with low visibility, heavily loading the avalanche terrain on the ridge below us. The Muldrow is a remote route without many good rescue options and significant terrain hazards- a crappy route to rescue someone off of. Late that night rangers in Talkeetna decided that a helicopter evacuation was the best option but that required far better weather. The snow finally stopped and we used the window to scout and prepare landing zone for the helicopter. The morning of July 2 we had a short window of clear wether, got the helicopter in, got the patients out, and had a special delivery of cinnamon rolls from the local bakery.
The weather closed again immediately after the rescue and continued to dump snow. We declared another rest day and started to wonder how hard getting to our cache would be with almost 3 feet of fresh snow covering our tracks onto the Harper.

4 thoughts on “Part 4, Browne Tower and Rescue

  1. John Connor

    Go Skander, go! You aren’t sticking the feeling anymore, you’re sending it. Psyched to read the next one.

    Reply

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