A 51-year-old Illinois climber who reached the summit of Mount McKinley has become the first mountaineer ever to die on the summit of the 20,320-foot mountain. Due to the danger involved in retrieving the body, Denali National Park and Preserve officials have opted to leave the deceased climber on the mountain at this time.
James Nasti, of Naperville, reached the summit on the Fourth of July. A client of an Alpine Ascents International expedition, Mr. Nasti reportedly climbed strongly to the summit, where he collapsed. Guides administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for up to 45 minutes before they abandoned their efforts.
Denali mountaineering rangers at the 14,200-foot camp were immediately notified by the guides via radio. The team was instructed by the rangers to descend carefully with the remaining four clients to the 17,200-foot camp, as there was no safe means of recovering the deceased at that time. Conditions were initially calm and clear on the summit, though weather began to deteriorate as the incident progressed.
The summit of Mt. McKinley features an exposed flat area roughly the size of a single car garage. Just below the summit, climbers must negotiate a 500-foot-long knife-edge ridge. A recovery along this ridge would require a highly skilled technical rescue team and a rope rigging system. Considering the high risk involved in such a ground lowering, as well as the excessive risk of a helicopter recovery at this extreme elevation, the National Park Service has determined that the safest alternative is to leave the remains of the deceased climber on the mountain at this time.
This incident represents the first time a mountaineer has died on Mt. McKinley’s summit. In 1988, a climber died at an elevation of 19,600-feet on a descent from the summit; the body was not recovered.