By Carlos Valdez, The Associated Press
LA PAZ, Bolivia — The body of an American man who died while climbing one of Bolivia’s highest peaks arrived Sunday in the country’s capital after a two-day recovery effort.
Rescue workers said Daniel Granberg, 24, died atop the Illimani mountain.
“We found Daniel lifeless, seated at the summit. His lungs did not hold out; he couldn’t get up to continue,” said Sergio Condori Vallejos, a mountain guide who works with Bolivian Andean Rescue and who led the recovery effort.
Condori said Granberg died at an altitude of 6,216 meters (20,391 feet) on the second day of a trek across the mountain, an iconic part of the view from Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. He was on the longest and most difficult trail across the mountain, which involved scaling at least two of its peaks.
Granberg had arrived in Bolivia two months ago and had climbed several other peaks.
On his trip up Illimani, he was accompanied by two guides who sought help from rescuers, who needed two days to bring the body down the mountain.
His body was brought to a morgue at a hospital in La Paz, according to members of the local fire department.
He died from high-altitude pulmonary distress, said his mother Jean Granberg. He had some shortness of breath the night before and a mild headache, she said, but nothing to indicate his life was in peril.
Granberg grew up surrounded by mountains in Montrose, Colorado, and graduated with a math degree from Princeton University, where he also sang tenor in various groups.
His mother described him as a warm-hearted, well-traveled and adventurous young man who had friends all over the world, and their heartfelt condolences were buoying her and his younger sister Jennifer Granberg.
Jean Granberg said she knows that her son was doing what he loved when he died.
“But I, just as a mom, my heart’s broken. Twenty-four years is not long enough and I just wish somehow there’d been some kind of warning,” she said, crying. “If he had felt like he was in danger in any way, he would have come down the mountain. But I think it happened so fast.”
Her son was a subcontractor who worked as a remote programmer for the U.S. Department of Energy, his mother said. He taught himself physics because his high school did not have a program and received the top score on the Advanced Placement exam, she said.
“He was the smartest person that I knew,” Jennifer Granberg said.
Tracy Lightsey, one of Daniel’s high school teachers and later a friend, organized a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help the family. As of Sunday afternoon, more than $21,000 had been raised.
“The response from people is entirely because this young man was an incredible human and he touched people wherever he was,” Lightsey said.
AP staff writer Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.