First fatality on Denali identified as climber from Nepal

Update, 10:32 a.m. Sunday, June 18:

An official with the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station identified the mountaineer who died Friday, June 16, on Denali as Sanjay Pandit, 28, of Kathmandu, Nepal, spokewoman Maureen Gualtieri wrote in a release.
According to the release, Pandit died at 17,500 feet on Denali’s West Buttress route. The climber’s remains will be recovered from the 17,200-foot high camp when the cloudy and windy weather conditions improve.
Original story: 

A Denali climber died at about 17,000 feet while descending the mountain early Friday, the first climber to perish on North America's tallest peak this year, according to Denali National Park and Preserve officials.

Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said the victim's name was being withheld pending next-of-kin notification overseas. The climber was heading down the popular West Buttress route of Denali when rangers received a request for help about 1 a.m.

"An independent party of three had been descending from Denali Pass when one of the teammates collapsed due to unknown illness," Gualtieri wrote in a statement. "By the time the initial team of two (National Park Service) mountaineering volunteers reached the scene, the climber was unresponsive."

The climber received emergency medical care, Gualtieri said, but never regained consciousness. The climber's remains are at the 17,200-foot high camp and will be recovered when weather conditions permit.

Poor weather prevented the park's high-altitude helicopter from reaching the area Friday morning. Gualtieri said around 5 p.m. that the weather appeared to be clearing up, and it was possible the remains would be recovered Friday night.

"Conditions were very windy this morning," Gualtieri said Friday. "As soon as the weather permits, we will recover those remains."


So far this year, rangers have responded to a few climbers who have fallen into crevasses on Denali, as well as a number of medical calls.

"Generally it's been a pretty quiet year, both on the mountain and in the park," Gualtieri said.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Jerzy Shedlock contributed to this report.

Related stories:

At Denali base camp, unseasonable warmth creates dangers for climbers

Denali climbers were desperate for food — but it was under 4 feet of snow

Inside the dramatic, 14-hour rescue that freed a climber from a deep crevasse on Denali

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.