Jerry Was Sitting Up in the Snow Waving; Pilot Relives Moment He Saved Climber from Mountain

Daily Mail (London), May 17, 2011 | Go to article overview

Jerry Was Sitting Up in the Snow Waving; Pilot Relives Moment He Saved Climber from Mountain


Byline: John Breslin

CLIMBER Jerry O'Sullivan survived 18 hours alone near the top of America's highest mountain, braving 110kmh gusts, a broken leg, frostbite and hypothermia.

The 40-year-old Corkman was airlifted from Mount McKinley in the highest ever Alaskan mountainside rescue on Thursday - from 19,500ft.

Fellow adventurer Beat Niederer, 38, died from unknown causes near 18,000ft. Guide Dave Staheli was credited with saving Mr O'Sullivan's life.

Todd Rutledge, who owns the Mountain Trip travel company behind the expedition, said: 'If Dave had not made it back to 17,200 camp, no rescue would have been forthcoming, and any rescue that was eventually organised would have had no knowledge of where to begin looking for the climbers.'

Mr Staeheli, who had broken ribs himself, helped Mr O'Sullivan down to flat ground, placed him in an emergency shelter and gave him his own heavy Parka for added protection.

With no use of his now frozen hands, with only one crampon and travelling in the dark, Mr Staeheli made his way down to the camp to alert rescuers. On Thursday, 33-year-old Westmeath man Tony Diskin was rescued at 14,200ft. He had turned back ahead of the other climbers - Mr Staeheli, New Yorker Lawrence Cutler, Mr Niederer and Mr O'Sullivan.

They had been travelling along a ridge towards the summit of the mountain dubbed The Great One. By 8pm on Wednesday, it was clear the weather was changing for the worse, and rapidly, as winds picked up and temperatures began to drop to around Minus 30C. The team decided to turn back when the four - who were roped together - tumbled from the ridge. Mr Niederer's body was recovered late on Thursday while Mr Staeheli and Mr Cutler were evacuated on Friday.

Yesterday, Mr Niederer's friends and family were demanding to know how two climbers had become separated from the guide. They also queried the decisions made as the expedition turned to disaster and the quality of the communications equipment the team had on the trip.

In an online post, friend Stephan Ramseyer said: 'Lawrence was lucky. Unfortuantely Beat not. This tragedy should not happen a second time.'

An investigation has begun into the expedition, which started out on April 24. Despite enduring frostbite and broken bones, Mr O'Sullivan was able to sit up and pull himself into a rescue basket when a helicopter arrived to pull him off Mount McKinley. …

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