Update: Denali National Park Climber From New Jersey Was Third to Die On Denali in a Month’s Time

by Jon D. B.

The Denali climber died suddenly at 19,700 feet in Denali National Park & Preserve. He was the third casualty of the mountain in a month.

During the evening of Friday, June 3, a Denali National Park climber collapsed during a Denali summit attempt. According park officials, 48-year-old Fernando Birman was pronounced deceased on the scene. The New Jersey native was the third to die on the highest peak in North America (Denali: 20,310-foot peak) in a month’s time.

Climbing with mountain guides, Birman would collapse at 19,700-feet on Denali during a summit attempt. Part of a 12-person group, Birman’s guides then immediately initiated cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at approx. 5:45 PM. But He would never regain a pulse.

Emergency officials were notified, and Birman’s guides then assisted in the recovery of his body. Recovery took place from the 19,500-foot Denali National Park plateau known as the Football Field via short-haul basket. Birman’s body was would then transfer to the State of Alaska medical examiner late Friday night.

Fernando Birman hailed from Stockton, New Jersey. The exact cause of death is unknown, but is “consistent with sudden cardiac arrest,” Denali officials cite.

New Jersey Native was ‘At Least Third Death’ on Denali in 2022

Birman began his ascent on May 22, cites spokesperson for Denali National Park Sharon Stiteler. The mountain would claim two other climbers the month prior. In May, a Japanese visitor fell through a “weak ice bridge” at approx. 8,000 feet on Denali’s Kahiltna Glacier on the southeast fork. Park officials cite that “was unroped from his teammates” when he died.

Denali seen from the road up to Polychrome Pass, Denali National Park, Alaska. (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

That same month, the body of Austrian solo climber Matthias Rimml was also recovered on Denali. The 35-year-old was a professional mountain guide, his climb beginning on April 27 from the Kahiltna Glacier base camp at 7,200 feet.

Rimml would last contact a friend on April 30, when he “reported being tired, but he was not in distress,” park officials said.

If visiting Denali yourself, please keep in mind that even the entrance of Denali is several hours from the nearest hospital. Locations on the park’s central road are even more remote. If you know you have a heart problem or medical condition, always talk to your doctor first about your travel plans. Denali National Park & Preserve is not the place to test your limits.

‘More people die from falls than any other cause in Denali National Park’

Testing mountaineering and wilderness skills on North America’s highest peak is a tempting venture for thrill seekers. As are the vertical rock and ice walls that line the Ruth Gorge. Indeed, Denali is know for its world-class mountaineering and climbing options. But before you go, allow the park to help you plan for a safe and successful journey in the Alaska Range. You can do so by visiting the park’s Backcountry Climbing and Mountaineering page here.

It is imperative to know the hazards before you head out into the park & preserve. Denali is far from a typical national park. The unique conditions and lands mean that most of Denali is trail-less. Long hikes will often take place on a route of your own choosing.

So if you decide to hike up a rocky hill or mountain, be careful of your footing. More people die from falls than any other cause in Denali National Park & Preserve.

Always dial 9-1-1 in Emergencies, and be prepared to give your location as Denali National Park. The park asks that visitors use 9-1-1 to “report accidents, fires, or life-threatening emergencies.”

Please note, however, that cell phone coverage exists only within three miles of the park entrance. There are no phones west of Park Headquarters. Any emergencies in those areas should be reported to rangers on patrol, campground hosts, bus drivers, or to staff at Eielson Visitor Center or the Toklat Rest Stop.