LEAVENWORTH, Wash. – A photograph on the GoFundMe website set up forAasgard Pass hiker Qi He shows the 24-year old outdoorsman in mid-skydive.
The force of the wind ripples his cheeks beneath bright-red goggles. The expression on his face is so utterly joyous that even if you’d never met him you’d have no doubt that he was exactly where he wanted to be.
Qi died in early June while “glissading” on Aasgard Pass, above Colchuck Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Hikers “glissade” by using an ice ax to control the speed of their slide down a slope of snow and ice.
During the descent, Qi disappeared into water rushing down a hole in the snow and ice. His body was recovered July 2.
He won’t return to his birth home in China. His parents chose to bury him Saturday in Leavenworth’s Mountain View Cemetery.
“We believe the world has no boundaries, and he doesn’t really belong to any specific region,” Qi’s stepfather, Rongfu Li, said through an interpreter Thursday during a visit to the Wenatchee World. “The mountain is what he loved and that cemetery is nearby. It’s a very beautiful place.”
“The world was like a village in my son’s heart,” said his mother, Zhu Min Li, also through the interpreter.
The couple flew to Washington from their home in central China when they heard of their son’s June 5 disappearance. They’d been staying in Wenatchee, awaiting results of the search.
They’ve since learned that an Eatonville woman died in July 2011 on Aasgard Pass under strikingly similar circumstances.
They’re appealing to authorities to post a warning sign near the area to avoid future tragedies.
“We want the government to study the area and take action to warn people or alter the face of the area rocks to prevent future incidents,” Zhu Min said.
Learning of Qi’s death, a friend set up the GoFundMe site for the family. The site raised more than $20,000 that they would like to donate toward creating a warning sign at the danger area.
The family’s interpreter was the victim’s brother-in-law, Wei Dai, who now lives in Sunnyvale, California. He said a Seattle lawyer told the family that a warning sign could likely not be posted near the danger zone, which is part of a designated wilderness area and meant to be left pristine.
The family is nevertheless hopeful that something can be done, he said.
Local U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Holly Krake said Friday that a solution appears to be in the works.
“It looks like we are going to be able to work with the family for some type of signage – outside of the wilderness – at some of our existing trailhead locations or sign boards,” she said.
Qi was an avid outdoorsman who practiced rock climbing, scuba diving and surfing, they said. He summited Mount Rainier last summer and had aspirations to climb Mount Everest. He’d already traveled to Tibet, a jumping-off point for an Everest climb.
Qi grew up in Zhen Jiang, in central China’s Jiang Su province, but moved to the U.S. eight years ago as a high school exchange student. He went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in business and finance math from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, they said.
He lived in Philadelphia, and had begun work on a master’s degree at the university when he accepted an internship at Microsoft in Redmond. He was hiking and glissading with three other Microsoft interns at the time of his death, his parents said.
“Qi had friends all around the world,” his mother said. “News spread quickly. He was passionate and loved life. He was happy to share and brought happiness to all around him.”
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