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Chockstone Forum - Accidents & Injuries
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This has just been posted on the Age website:
Back from the abyss: trio saved on cold mountain
June 11, 2009 - 2:38PM
Sydney adventurer James Castrission knows all about extremes.
He survived a gruelling 62-day paddle across the Tasman Sea with his mate Justin Jones.
Now he's revealed how he helped three climbers live to tell the story of their own ordeal 5000 metres up North America's freezing highest mountain.
The 25-year-old Sydneysider - midway through his next big adventure scaling the 6194-metre Mount McKinley - told how he watched as three Americans climbers, who were roped together, slipped and tumbled towards a precipice until one of their ice axes bit and held.
Castrission, who was with his climbing partner Hugh Ward at a section called Washburn Thumb, took up the tale after using a satellite phone to post a message on his website crossingtheditch.
"All of sudden the middle climber slipped and fell and he started tumbling, and then the two others tried to dig their ice axes in but both of them were pulled off the mountain and started tumbling a couple of hundred feet down," he said.
The three climbers were tethered together.
"We thought we were witnessing the death of three climbers, as the glacier on the other side of the ridge line was about 3-4000 feet further down.
"They were just tumbling out of control and then luckily the top climber was able to get his ice axe in and arrest the fall, just as the other guys were teetering on the edge of going down this very steep ice fall."
The trio ended up about 30 metres from Castrission and Ward, Castrission said.
"We ditched our packs and ran over to them as quick as possible and set up anchor just above where they were.
"The top guy wasn't too bad but as we abseiled down to the two lower climbers we found one of them had put his ice axe through his legs and had bad frost bite on a couple of fingers.
"The other climber had torn his [knee ligament]."
In minus 20 degrees, Castrission and Ward managed to set up a pulley system to haul the trio away from their precarious position, Castrission said
They were setting up lines to move the three men further down the mountain when three rescuers from Denali National Park passed by.
Over the next five hours, the five managed to get the injured trio down to where a rescue helicopter was waiting.
"What an absolutely harrowing day ... it really was the scariest thing seeing these three climbers plummet and being tossed around like rag dolls," Castrission said.
A local air rescue service confirmed it had been involved in a rescue of climbers injured with ice climbing equipment, but would not provide further details.
Castrission's kayak partner, Justin Jones, said Castrission and Ward planned to have "a bit of a sleep in" after the rescue effort and , if the weather was good and they felt rested, would continue their climb.
Castrission is climbing Mount McKinley - the highest mountain in North America - to test equipment for an Antarctica adventure with Jones in the next one or two years.
He is also on a personal quest to climb the highest peak on each continent.
Castrission and Jones previously completed a historic 62-day crossing of the Tasman, ending early last year.
Should this not be in the Accidents section?
If you go to the Crossing the Ditch site you can listen to James recount the story
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