Mount Everest Claims Another Life as Search Goes on for Missing ‘Death Zone’ Climbers

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The body of a Kenyan climber who vanished close to the summit of Mount Everest was found by a search and rescue team on Wednesday night, officials said, in the latest tragedy to unfold on the world’s highest peak this week.

The death of Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui, 44, was confirmed Thursday in a press release from Nepal’s Department of Tourism. He had set out to become the first African to reach the summit without the aid of additional oxygen, according to the BBC.

British Climber Swept Off Everest Was ‘Happiest in the Mountains’

Kirui and his Sherpa guide, Nawang, went missing Wednesday. The search crews located his body a little over 60 feet below the summit, the tourism department said, at around 10:30 p.m. local time. “At the time of issuing this statement, the condition of the Sherpa is unknown and search and rescue operations are ongoing,” the department added Thursday.

It’s not clear if Kirui and Nawang went missing before or after they were able to reach the summit. Base camp officials cited by The Himalayan Times said the final communication they received from the pair came from Bishop Rock—the site of a weather station close to the summit. Nawang reportedly told the officials that Kirui had “refused to return and even consume bottled oxygen” and “showed abnormal behavior.”

In his final Instagram post last week, Kirui said his “no-oxygen attempt comes with it's special preparations and risks” but “physically my body is ready.” He added that he is “susceptible to HAPE” or high altitude pulmonary edema, a potentially life-threatening condition in which fluid to builds up in the lungs.

Kirui said he was taking medications with him on his ascent for HAPE and another altitude-related illness. He also explained that Nawang would be ferrying an emergency bottle of oxygen to be used if “I go lights out or if I go bananas,” or if some other contingency shortened the amount of time he’d have to reach the summit.

His death and Nawang’s disappearance in the mountain’s so-called “death zone”—the region with an altitude over about 26,000 feet where oxygen levels are dangerously low—comes after two others vanished in the area on Tuesday.

British man Daniel Paul Paterson, 40, disappeared along with his Sherpa guide Pas Tenji Sherpa disappeared on Everest Tuesday. The pair had successfully reached the summit at around 4:40 a.m. but then “slipped and disappeared” at around 7 a.m. during their descent.

In an Instagram post, Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions said: “Eyewitnesses reported the incident took place between Summit Ridge and South Summit and some climbers were swept away in Kangshung Face.” He added that the company’s search teams “are working tirelessly to locate our missing climbers.”

Two other Mongolian climbers also died last week while making their descent on Everest.

Despite the risks, climbers around the world still clamor for their chance to reach the summit, sometimes creating heavy congestion on the routes.

A video shared on Facebook this week from one climber who purportedly filmed the footage on Monday shows a long line of climbers snaking up and down the mountainside. Rajan Dwivedi, who posted the clip, said it “shows what we face on one rope line and negotiating interchanges during the traffic for upstream and downstream.”

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