Neda Milosevic, 37
Lives in: Ruma, Serbia
Favorite part of your work: Putting bad guys in jail
Least favorite: I don’t like that so many young people are criminals.
What do you like to do in your free time: Mountaineering, hiking, painting
If you could travel anywhere: I was just in South America and the Himalayas. Now I want to see Africa.
If you could write a book: Man Versus Nature. Not that the man is a fighter but rather an explorer. He explores himself.
The last meal you ate: Dehydrated mac and cheese
Are you religious: Orthodox Christian
Any regrets: No
Trick of the Trade: Every day is the most important. Almost every piece of gear is important up here.
I first met Neda at 14 Camp as she was setting up her Serbian mountaineering club’s flag beside her tent. Her partner was in the tent, and Neda had been busy organizing gear and tidying up the snow wall. She told me that she had known another Serbian man who had arrived in camp a few days earlier. Our patrol had seen him come to our camp from the sky, attached to the Park Service’s helicopter via a 150-foot rope and a body harness called a screamer suit. The young Serbian man had been the first patient of what would be a three-patient rescue off the Football Field.
My patrol was in the Park Service communication tent at 14 Camp after dinner that night when the radio called in from 17 Camp. Tucker, the ranger at 17 at that time, was crossing the Football Field with his patrol of four volunteers after summiting when they noticed the Serbian man alone and stumbling like a drunk Michelin man in his red puffy suit. He was suffering from acute mountain sickness because of the elevation. As they began treatment, a Japanese climbing team of three approached on their descent from the summit. The front member of that group collapsed 40 feet from Tucker’s crew and the Serbian. Patient number two had arrived on the scene.
We heard this from 14 Camp as Tucker’s radio calls came down for a helicopter evac. Soon a plan was in place to fly the patients individually from the Football Field via the screamer suit. They’d land at camp 14, be assessed by our paramedic, Dan, then be repackaged inside the chopper for a deposit at base camp.
As the helicopter shuttling was under way, Tucker called down again and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but we have a third patient.” They’d come across another staggering, hypoxic climber in a private group. He couldn’t power himself down the Zebra Rocks section, and he definitely wouldn’t make it down the steep headwall below Denali Pass called the Autobahn.
Luckily, the weather was perfect, and it doesn’t get dark in Alaska in mid-June. So a rescue pluck from 19,000 feet could take place at 11 p.m. The helicopter became a sort of designated-driver vehicle for the seemingly wasted climbers who had gotten themselves a little too high too fast.
Neda told me that the Serbian man had been part of her group on Denali. She said he was not alone on the Football Field, that his partners were with him. Tucker found him alone, but who knows? Either way, he likely would have been a body recovery had he not happened to be there on the day when the Park Service patrol was coming off the summit. Or if it had been cloudy and unflyable. Instead, he and the other two patients walked out of the helicopter at the oxygen-rich 7,200-foot base camp feeling perfectly healthy, as if they were stepping out of a cab after a few drinks at a mountaineering-themed costume party.
Neda Milosevic, 37