New Jersey Man Dies Attempting to Summit Alaska’s Denali Mountain

by TK Sanders

A New Jersey native died over the weekend while attempting to successfully climb Alaska’s Denali Mountain, the largest peak in America.

Fernando Birman of Stockton, New Jersey, collapsed around 5:45 p.m. while climbing, the National Park Service said in a statement. Birman was 48, the New York Post reports.

His mountain guides immediately began trying to resuscitate Birman with CPR; but the climber never regained a pulse during the attempt. Medical personnel pronounced him dead at the scene.

Birman collapsed at 19,700 feet; and considering Denali’s peak stretches just 20,310 feet high, he was just about to complete his goal when his heart failed. No cause of death has been released according to NPS, but his symptoms align with sudden cardiac arrest.

After calling in the death, Birman’s guides assisted helicopters with recovery efforts. They pulled him to a plateau on the mountain called the Football Field where airborne rescue vehicles can reach. From there, rescuers transported the body to an Alaskan medical examiner for an autopsy.

The New Jersey man is the third climber to die on the mountain in Denali National Park this year

In May, a 43-year-old climber from Japan died after falling through an ice bridge into a crevasse. There, he was buried under snow and ice, and presumed dead.

The park said the Japanese man “was unroped from his teammates” when he fell through a weak ice bridge near their camp “at approximately 8,000 feet” on the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.

“The climber is presumed dead based on the volume of ice, the distance of the fall and the duration of the burial. The feasibility of a body recovery will be investigated in the days ahead,” the park’s statement said.

After the collapse, a ranger rappelled into the crevasse as far as possible. He found that the ice bridge collapse had filled the crevasse with a large volume of snow and ice.

Also in May, rescuers located the body of a 35-year-old Australian climber around a notorious stretch of the Denali Pass. Nobody had heard from the climber in about a week when rescuers discovered his body, according to NPS. At least 12 other climbers fell and died in the same area over the recent years, NPS added.

Matthias Rimml “likely fell on the steep traverse between Denali Pass at 18,200 feet and the 17,200-foot plateau,” the park said in May.

Not only do climbers face serious health risks while free climbing massive summits, but they also put rescuers in danger when things go wrong. Park rangers tasked with rescue efforts have to acclimate to the altitude, as well, when attempting recovery; not to mention the treacherous aerial routes needed to access the injured, stranded, or dead.