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Boston COVID doctor dies in Pakistan on mountaineering trip

A Boston medical doctor who had volunteered to treat COVID-19 patients has died while climbing the world’s 12th highest mountain in Pakistan.

Pakistan's military located Alex Goldfarb-Rumyantzev's body on Monday in the Karakoram mountains, marking the second death of a foreign climber in the area in less than a week.

A helicopter team spotted Goldfarb's remains during a search and rescue operation that began on Sunday, according to the Alpine Club of Pakistan.

Alex Goldfarb-Rumyantzev, 56, a COVID doctor from Boston, was mountain-climbing in Pakistan when he went missing on Saturday. His body was located on Monday 

This is one of the last photos showing Goldfarb (center foreground) with his mountaineering companions in Pakistan 

Goldfarb and his mountaineering partner set out to climb Pastore Peak, but were met with harsh winter conditions. Goldfarb decided to continue climbing alone (stock image)

Goldfarb appeared to have fallen off the mountain, Hungarian expedition company Magyar Expedicios, which was supporting the climbers, said in a statement.

Goldfarb and his Hungarian mountaineering partner Zoltan Szlanko were planning to climb the 26,400-foot-high Broad Peak, which has yet to be ascended in winter, without the use of oxygen or any porters for help, according to Magyar Expedicios.

Broad Peak is situated not far from the legendary K2, which, at 28,251 feet above sea level, is the second highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest at 29,028 feet. 

To acclimate for that climb, the pair set out to climb nearby Pastore Peak, but were met with harsh winter conditions and Szlanko decided to turn back, while Goldfarb continued alone.

Szlanko joined the search for his partner after he failed to return as planned on Saturday.

Goldfarb, an experienced mountaineer, was reported missing after failing to return from his climb on Saturday. Officials believe he had fallen off the mountain 

The plan was for Goldfarb (right) and his partner to climb Broad Peak, which is the world's 12th highest mountain 

Goldfarb, a nephrologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a lecturer at Harvard University, had been treating COVID-19 patients since the outset of the pandemic, his son Levi Goldfarb told Reuters.

'He thought [mountain climbing] was beautiful,' Levi said. 'He thought it was liberating, because up in the mountains it didn't really matter who you were at sea level -- a doctor, a lawyer, or even a thief, all of those labels were stripped away and you were playing by a different set of rules. 

'He made great friends in the mountains, he saved lives and was saved [by others] himself, and he traveled the world doing it.'

Levi has launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for transporting his father's body back to the US for burial. He wrote movingly in the description of the campaign of his father's stunning journey, from a penniless Russian immigrant working in a factory and selling his plasma for cash, to a professor of medicine at Harvard with two doctorate degrees. 

Goldfarb was a nephrologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a lecturer at Harvard University who had published over 70 articles and several books 

'He went on to have a stunning academic career, publishing over 70 peer-reviewed publications and several books, the most recent of which was the first Critical Care Medicine book to include a chapter on COVID,' wrote Goldfarb's son.  

'Alex taught me to always strive to be better; he was constantly reading, researching, writing, and adventuring. No achievement was ever enough—he enjoyed the thrill of the chase. He taught me that a person’s true character shows in difficult circumstances: when the COVID pandemic first broke out, most people—myself included—preferred to stay home and keep themselves safe. 

'Alex sought out the epicenter of the pandemic on the Eastern Seaboard—Elmhurst hospital—and drove there immediately to treat patients in need. He taught me to stand up for what I believe is right, and to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Goldfarb had been treating COVID-19 patients since the outset of the pandemic

'If asked what his greatest achievement was, Alex would no doubt mention his family. We knew that he would do anything for us—we never had to worry, because he would shoulder any burden for those he loved. He was a great man, and I am proud to be his son. I hope I can one day be a fraction of the man he was.'

Goldfarb is survived by his two sons. He would have celebrated his 57th birthday in two weeks' time.  

Spanish climber Sergio Mingote also died in the Karakoram mountains on Saturday, after he fell down a crevasse while attempting to make his way down to Base Camp on K2, the world's second-highest mountain.

Travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic dampened the traditionally active summer months of mountaineering in the region last year.

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