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Two Climbers Fatally Collapse on Denali

Denali (20,320′), showing the upper West Buttress (numerous lines, from ca. 2,500′ to 3,500′ and up to 5.9 85 degrees) on the left skyline and the Cassin Ridge (Alaska Grade 5: 5.8 AI4 65 degrees, 9,000′), the prominent line that runs up the photo’s center, Denali National Park, Alaska. Following other tragedies on the mountain this season, two climbers–James Nasti of Naperville, IL and Pungkas Tri Baruno of Jakarta, Indonesia–collapsed, unexpectedly and fatally, in separate incidents early this July. [Photo] NPS collection

On the evening of July 4, 2008, James Nasti of Naperville, IL, collapsed and died on the summit of Denali (20,320′) in Denali National Park, Alaska. The 41-year-old climber was a client of Alpine Ascents International, and began his ascent on June 20, 2008. “According to the two expedition guides, Nasti exhibited no signs of distress or illness throughout the trip, and was climbing strongly immediately prior to the collapse,” explained Maureen McLaughlin of the National Park Service. Upon reaching the summit, Nasti collapsed and, despite forty-five minutes of CPR, was not revived. Nasti’s was the first fatality on the summit of Denali, and the National Park Service has determined that retrieval of his remains is not safe at this time.

Three days after Nasti’s death, Pungkas Tri Baruno of Jakarta, Indonesia, collapsed and died while descending Denali’s West Buttress. Late on the afternoon of July 7, Baruno and one other Indonesian climber reached the summit, on a guided Mountain Trip expedition. That evening, within a quarter of a mile of Denali’s high camp (17,200′), Baruno collapsed and died. According to the National Park Service’s latest press release, “Baruno’s guides initiated CPR and immediately called for assistance from another guided team at high camp via family band (FRS) radio. CPR was performed for over an hour, but they were unable to revive the patient… The cause of death is unknown at this time.” As of July 8, the date of the latest press release, Baruno’s remains were being kept in a protected area outside of the high camp until weather permits the National Park Service to retrieve them.

Both fatalities come in a season already marked by tragedy on Denali. On June 3, 2008, Denali mountaineering rangers led a technical rope rescue of Claude Ratte, who fell 2,000′ from the West Buttress route (see the June 4, 2008 NewsWire for more information on the life-saving rescue). Ratte’s rescue came on the heels of the tragic loss of two climbers on the mountain. Tatsuro Yamada and Yuto Inoue, both from Japan, did not return to base camp from the Cassin Ridge when expected on May 22, 2008. On May 29, the search was officially suspended and the climbers deemed lost (read the May 28 and May 29, 2008 NewsWires for more information on the lost climbers and search efforts).

Sources: Maureen McLaughlin,