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Duff McKagan Risks Cerebral Edema Climbing Mt. Ranier

Duff McKagan
Mike Coppola, Getty Images

The life of a rock n’ roller may be grueling, what with all the constant travel, long hours in the studio and non-stop partying, but, as Duff McKagan found out, it’s nothing compared to mountain climbing. The former Guns N’ Roses bassist recently risked his life attempting to scale Mt. Ranier, which has an elevation of 14,409 feet, and wrote about the experience in his column at Seattle Weekly.

The climb was part of the Heroes Project, which was founded by McKagan’s friend, Tim Medvetz, and dedicated to supporting veterans, soldiers and military families. Joining them at Mt. Ranier was Cpl. Kionte Storey, who lost his right leg in Afghanistan and climbed with the use of a prosthetic limb.

According to McKagan, who trained heavily for the event, all was going fairly well by the time they reached Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. But after that, things changed. “My right eye suddenly blurred at about 11,000 feet,” he wrote. “I kept it quiet. I didn’t want to be the guy who held up the group…Blurry or not, you just carry on… At 12,000 feet, both my eyes went blurry, and nausea was overcoming me. It was a sort of step, step, heave . . . step, step, heave type of gait. ” Still, McKagan believed it would pass.

At 12,800 feet, someone noticed his behavior and told him that he thought McKagan had suffered a life-threatening cerebral edema, which can happen as a result of altitude sickness. Duff’s internal response was skepticism — “Hey climber-dude-alarmist-guy . . . chill the f— out” — but the climb was called off and McKagan was led back down the mountain to safety.

Despite possibly nearly losing his life, McKagan hopes to reach the summit of Mt. Ranier someday.

Next: Most Destructive Guns N' Roses Moments

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