• Directory of Taiwan

2 US climbers presumed dead on Argentina mountain

2 US climbers from Wis., Pa., presumed dead on Argentina peak, remembered for passion for life

2 US climbers presumed dead on Argentina mountain

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Two men from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are presumed to have died while climbing an Argentinian peak last week, a cousin of the Wisconsin man said Wednesday.

Jarod VonRueden, 22, of Clyman, Wis., and Frank Keenan, 28, of Pennsylvania, were climbing Mount Aconcagua (ah-cohn-KAH'-wah) on New Year's Eve. The 23,000-foot peak is the highest in North and South America.

The U.S. Air Force told VonRueden's family on Dec. 31 that VonRueden's rescue beacon had been activated, said his cousin, Julie Feldman. VonRueden's parents said Feldman would act as the family spokeswoman.

Feldman said the family wasn't immediately sure how to interpret the news. Relatives speculated on different scenarios, from the possibility it was pressed in error to "something majorly wrong," she said.

Daily weather updates provided by the U.S. Embassy proved disheartening. Strong gales, bitter cold and stormy weather combined to make rescue efforts treacherous, they were told, and while relatives hoped for the best they began preparing for the worst.

By Sunday, the embassy told them rescue workers in a helicopter had spotted the climbers' bodies about 200 yards down in a fissure of rock and ice. Feldman was told the climbers were presumed dead and that it could take several days to recover the bodies.

Officials speculate the climbers fell, Feldman told The Associated Press.

VonRueden was just beginning a career as an emergency medical technician, Feldman said. He always seemed to have an adventuresome spirit, but he developed a real passion for traveling after he finished high school in nearby Watertown, she said.

He backpacked in China and the Grand Canyon, he went mountain-climbing in Ecuador and he'd just scaled Alaska's Mount McKinley last summer, Feldman said. What people will remember about her cousin is that he lived life with passion, adventure and no regrets, Feldman said.

"He lived more in four years than most people do in their entire lives," she said. "He was an incredibly positive spirit. He always had a smile, an infectious energy. People just loved being around him."

A message left Wednesday for the mother of Keenan, VonRueden's climbing partner, was not immediately returned.

Keenan's friend, Scott Borrillo of St. Augustine, Fla., reminisced about mountain climbs he'd taken with Keenan, whose Pennsylvania hometown was not immediately available.

The two met in online forums for mountain climbers, and they became fast friends after they met on a climb at Mount Rainier four years ago.

"He became my climbing partner. He was always one I would clip into," Borrillo said. "I just felt the safest with him. He was so passionate about mountain climbing -- well, we all are -- but he would live, eat and breathe it."

Borrillo said he and Keenan were part of a group that took a two-week trip to Ecuador in January 2012 to climb three mountains, especially Mount Chimborazo, the highest mountain in the country. They got only halfway up before a storm forced them to turn back.

Keenan obsessed over not being able to scale the peak, so he went back alone the next year, hired a local guide and reached the summit.

"Climbing was his passion," Borrillo said.

Feldman said there were no immediate funeral plans until the bodies were recovered. She said donations to support the recovery efforts could be made at any Chase Bank under the Jarod VonRueden Benefit Fund.


Associated Press writer Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.


Dinesh Ramde can be reached at

Updated : 2021-06-25 12:33 GMT+08:00