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Helicopters Rescue Scottish Climber

May 5, 1987

TALKEETNA, Alaska (AP) _ An Army helicopter hovered over an icy slope of Mount McKinley on Monday to rescue a British climber injured nearly 20 hours before in an 800-foot slide down the mountain.

Stanley Darke, 45, of Harriet Sham, England, was flown to an Anchorage hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

Darke was part of a 24-member expedition attempting to scale the 20,320- foot mountain, the highest in North America.

He and several other members of the group were descending along the mountain’s West Rib route Sunday afternoon when Darke lost his footing, said Jane Anderson, a spokeswoman for Denali National Park.

Darke was not roped to the others and slid about 800 feet down an icy slope, coming to rest on the mountain’s 14,000-foot level.

Two fellow climbers clambered down to Darke and stayed with him overnight, while another climber descended to notify officials at the Kahiltna Glacier base camp at 7,500 feet.

Darke survived a chilly night with the help of his partners, who twice administered cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, said Roger Robinson, a mountaineer ranger with the Park Service.

Robinson flew to the scene Monday morning in a small private helicopter. But Darke was too badly injured to be carried into the small helicopter, and Robinson asked for the assistance of a large Army CH-47 ″Chinook″ helicopter from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.

A CH-47 dropped off a litter and a paramedic, said Army spokeswoman Doris Thomas. Unable to land on the 35-degree slope, the helicopter flew downhill and landed on a more level spot while the paramedic tended to Darke.

By 11 a.m., Darke had been hoisted aboard the helicopter, which flew him 130 miles south to Humana Hospital in Anchorage.

Robinson said the Scottish expedition was one of the first groups to arrive this spring on the mountain. The climbing season gets under way in April after the mountain’s fierce winter weather subsides but before melting snow reveals treacherous crevasses on the glaciers.

Five members of Darke’s expedition attained the summit Sunday and may have been the first of about 150 climbers on the mountain to reach the peak, Robinson said.

Last year, 755 climbers ventured to the mountain; about half reached the summit. Four were killed, bringing to 51 the number of climbers who have died on McKinley’s slopes.

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