David M. Nyman saved James P. Sweeney from exposure and avalanche, Denali National Park, Alaska, April 21-26, 1989. On April 19, 1989, Sweeney, 33, was climbing Mt. Johnson, at a point near Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park, when he fell, fracturing and dislocating a hip. His climbing partner, Nyman, 31, civil engineer, laboriously lowered him to the base of the mountain, where they spent the night. The following day, Nyman left to seek help. He skied to a lodge several miles away and dispatched rescuers, but the next day, April 21, he learned that they could not reach Sweeney. Nyman immediately returned, alone, to Sweeney, believing that evacuation by air was forthcoming. A snowstorm began, causing avalanches, several of which struck Nyman and Sweeney and buried them despite Nyman’s repeated efforts, over four days, to secure refuge as they awaited help. On April 25, their supplies nearly depleted, Nyman began to remove Sweeney single-handedly. For two days he would make a path through the newly fallen snow, which would accumulate to about four feet, tramp it down, then drag Sweeney over its course. In this fashion Nyman painstakingly covered almost a mile over terrain that descended 1,200 feet to the glacier; the men were continually threatened by avalanches, one of which deposited them in a deep crevasse. On April 26, they were evacuated by helicopter from the glacier and taken to a hospital. Sweeney was detained six weeks for his injuries. Nyman recovered from marked dehydration and frostbite.
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