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Another Death on Denali

This always saddens me. The death of a mountain climber. It shouldn’t, overly: Why should the death of a climber on a mountain, be it Denali in Alaska or Everest wherever, be more saddening, more “tragic” (that tragically overused word) than the death of a child in any circumstance, the death of a mother or father for that matter, of anyone who didn’t choose to die, as mountain climbers undeniably do, if only fractionally: climbing a mountain is as much a choice as accepting the fatal risks inherent to that mountain, the more so on mountains like Denali, where James Nasti became the 101 st climber to die since records began in 1932.

He was 51. He’d made it to the top of the mountain on the 4 th of July. There, he collapsed. Dead. Never had any signs of troubles, of the heart or anything else, in his everyday life or on the way up the mountain. It was a fine climbing day. He died. From the Anchorage Daily News: “Nasti was a senior manager with Kraft International and an active outdoorsman his whole life, said Chris, the oldest of Nasti’s three sons. There’s Joe, 22, and Mike, 19. He also leaves his wife, Peggy.” Of course that’s heartbreaking. But again: why mourn a mountain-climber more than, say, Oscar Martin Gwynn, the 49-year-old Winston-Salem man who died on Tuesday after wrecking in his car on July 2, or the rollover that killed three young men in Alaska on Friday, or…

And yet the mountain, soulless, unforgiving as ice, demands the attention, even, or especially, when it claims lives. Maybe it’s the mountain we mourn, that immense beauty, as moving as it is unmovable, as heartbreaking (literally, in James Nasti’s case) as it is indifferent.

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