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New Yorker Climbing Mount McKinley in Denali National Park Dies on West Buttress


A New York man died above Windy Corner on Mount McKinley. NPS photo of West Buttress route on Mt. McKinley.

A 61-year-old New Yorker collapsed and died, apparently of natural causes, while being guided to the top of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve. William Hearne died Thursday after his team hauled gear to 13,500 feet.

Mr. Hearne, of Fairport, New York, was on a six-member team being led by Mountain Trip guides. They began their ascent of 20,320-foot McKinley on May 1. Mr. Hearne collapsed shortly before 4:00 p.m. after his team had hauled gear from their camp at 11,200 feet to a cache site at 13,500 feet, just above the location known as Windy Corner.

The expedition guides immediately began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation and were soon assisted by two National Park Service mountaineering rangers who happened to be at Windy Corner retrieving gear. CPR was performed for over 30 minutes, but Mr. Hearne never regained a pulse.

Two advanced medical providers on the same NPS patrol, a paramedic and a nurse, arrived on scene from the 14,200-foot camp at 4:30 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hearne was pronounced deceased after telephone consultation with the park’s physician sponsor. While the five team members returned to their camp at 11,200-feet, NPS rangers secured the deceased in place at 13,500-feet for later helicopter evacuation.

Denali National Park and Preserve’s 2009 mountaineering season only recently got under way. A total of 1,052 climbers are registered to attempt Mt. McKinley this season, 167 of whom are currently on the mountain. Of the ten mountaineers that already completed attempts, eight reached the summit.

Mr. Hearne was the first climber to die this season. His was also the first incident of any significance on the mountain.

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