He Lost His Life Waiting for a Rescue Atop Denali

Inside the May climb that left one climber dead
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2024 6:22 AM CDT
They Got Stuck Atop Denali—for Days
Sightseeing buses and tourists are seen at a pullout popular for taking in views of North America's tallest peak, Denali, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, Aug. 26, 2016.   (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

A climber died on Alaska's Denali in late May, and a new article from Outside Online paints a picture of a multi-day rescue attempt that did manage to save one life. As Owen Clarke reports, a three-person team of climbers from Malaysia left for the summit from a camp at 16,000 feet at 5am on Monday, May 27, and made it 19 hours later. Climbers traditionally leave from a camp at 17,200 feet, making the trio's climb even more grueling. Muhammad Illaham "Pak Am" Ishak and Zainudin "Deeno" Lot, both 47, had tried to summit Denali twice before; doing so would leave them with just Antarctica's Mount Vinson to scale in order to have conquered the Seven Summits—the highest peak on each continent. But things turned once they reached the top. The third member of their climbing party, Zulkifili "Ajoy" Bin Yusof, 37, became hypothermic.

Unable to warm him, they called in a rescue request at 1am Tuesday. Ishak descended looking for help, leaving the others roughly 700 feet below the 20,310-foot summit. Climbers he came across managed to reach the men and give them an altitude-sickness drug, food, and a bivouac sack but determined the men couldn't manage a descent. Tuesday brought thick clouds that prevented a helicopter rescue; Wednesday added violent winds to the mix. Thursday night they could get close enough to drop off food and saw Lot waving. The helicopter finally touched down 7am Friday. Lot was alive; Bin Yusof had died, likely two days prior. Clarke explains just what makes Denali so perilous as far as the Seven Summits go: its "vertical rise from base camp and position on the 63rd parallel, just a few degrees shy of the Arctic Circle." (Read the full story here.)

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