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Dusan Jagersky, 1940-1977


A few minutes before midnight on June 14, 1977, Dusan Jagersky and A1 Givler were tragically killed while descending from the summit of a unnamed peak in Alaska’s Fairweather range.

I met Dusan in early 1972, a few short years after he left his native Czechoslovakia to “seek a newer world.” In his homeland, Dusan had been a professional mountain guide, but also found time to complete a number of difficult climbs in the High Tatras. In the Western Alps in 1967-68 he did the Matterhorn North Face, Martinelli Couloir on Monte Rosa and Lyskamm North Face, among others.

It was in this country, however, that Dusan came into his true element: demanding major alpine climbs in the best possible style. He was among the first who shed the cumbersome fixed-rope tactics of previous Alaskan expeditions, and instead forged new ways up difficult Alaskan peaks with the lightest possible resources. Perhaps the finest example is the remarkable climb he and Bill Sumner made in 1974 up the sheer ice of Mount Geist’s northeast face in the Hayes range, traversing the ice- barnacled summit ridge, and then descending the mountain’s north ridge that had repulsed two earlier Japanese expeditions. It was a tour de force.

The Fairweather range was Dusan’s greatest passion. In the past five years, he dominated the climbing in this magnificent area of ice mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean. Starting in 1972 with a brilliant ascent of the 7000-foot northeast face of La Perouse’s East Peak and a second ascent of Mount Bertha via a new route, he followed a year later with a 12½ day alpine-style traverse of Mount Fairweather and Quincy Adams. In 1975 he came back to make the first ascent of Peak 12,606. This past summer, he wanted to tackle an old nemesis, Mount Salisbury, or Mount Crillon, but had to settle for the smaller peaks of the Abbe group. On all these climbs, Dusan’s forte was leading the most difficult ice pitches with enormous relish and total competence.

Dusan was far more than an outstanding climber. He was one of the most generous, warm-hearted persons I have known. A short man, powerfully built, he conveyed an impression of subdued mirth that would occasionally break out in gleeful exuberance. Yet, there was a deeply private side, a sensitive thoughtfulness that one infrequently sees in men of action, or as Bill Sumner so aptly put it, in a man who was “a place of power.”

We shared so many joys in the mountains—in the Cascades and on three Alaskan expeditions. Dusan had looked forward eagerly to this summer’s expedition to K2 where he wanted to test his considerable abilities among the highest mountains. All of us who knew and loved Dusan miss him terribly. Of only partial solace is the fact that he died at a time when his powers were at their fullest, when he was doing what he most wanted to do.

Dusan leaves his wife and closest friend, Diana; in Czechoslovakia, his mother and younger brother, Ivan.

James Wickwire