The second climber in a week died suddenly on a guided trip to Mount McKinley on Monday night, and mountaineers are looking for answers: Why did two seemingly healthy men collapse at or near the top of the big mountain.
Pungkas Tri Baruno, from Jakarta, Indonesia, was 20 years old and apparently fit, one of three young climbers on an expedition connected with the country's national scouting organization. Baruno made it to the 20,320 foot summit Monday and almost back to high camp at 17,200 feet.
He descended the West Buttress route slowly but steadily. The wind picked up, clouds moved in and it began to snow. His guide kept asking him whether he felt nauseous or dizzy. Baruno said he didn't feel sick, according to Todd Rutledge, co-owner of the guiding company, Mountain Trip.
Then, roped to his guide, maybe 15 minutes from camp, Baruno gave out. "I can't go on," he told his guide, then collapsed. The others had gone ahead. His guide radioed for help, then he and other guides spent more than an hour trying to revive Baruno, said the National Park Service. But they couldn't bring him back.
He was the fourth mountaineer to die on Denali this climbing season.
Three days earlier on July 4, 51-year-old James Nasti of the Chicago area collapsed and died just as he reached the summit of North America's tallest peak. He was in good shape, too, a man who had climbed Mount Rainier twice — middle-aged but with no history of heart trouble, his family said.
"It really seems like a horrible coincidence. We don't know what happened to either of these two climbers, really, but they were both very sudden onsets," Rutledge said.
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