Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summit note

One tragedy marred an otherwise great expedition: on summit day, at the top of the highest mountain in North America, Jim, one of our climbers, suddenly and simply collapsed. We gave CPR for over 35 minutes in an effort to revive him, but he never regained a pulse. Due to the steepness of the terrain, our quickly-chilling group did not have the resources to conduct a complicated recovery to bring him down; we simply had to say our goodbyes and bury him as best we could at the request of the Park Service. Two other Alpine Ascents teams summited a few days later, and were able to rebury his body in a more secluded spot, where it will likely remain.

Here's the Park Service's press release:

As much as accidents and deaths in the mountains are often subject to endless debate and scrutiny, this is a rare case when there's really not much to rehash, fortunately for those of us involved. We may never know what caused his collapse, particularly if he remains buried on the mountain; he was climbing as strongly as anyone else, and had shown no previous signs of anything out of the ordinary, no trouble with altitude. He was climbing with a friend who was also on our trip, and as traumatic as it must be for him, hopefully some small measure of closure and comfort can come to his family through this friend's presence at his death.

We were able to get the rest of our team safely off the mountain with the generous help of many other guides and people both on and off the hill. Everyone we worked with has been incredibly helpful and supportive, particularly the NPS staff. They have to deal with this sort of thing regularly on a professional basis, but manage to do so while being incredibly human and caring on a personal level as well. Huge thanks for everyone's help, and many condolences to those who will feel Jim's loss.

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