Famed climber dies in 8th Everest bid

Mr Nobukazu Kuriki, 35, is the third climber this month to perish on Everest. In 2012, he lost all but one finger to frostbite on the mountain.
Mr Nobukazu Kuriki, 35, is the third climber this month to perish on Everest. In 2012, he lost all but one finger to frostbite on the mountain.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KATHMANDU • A celebrated Japanese climber who lost all but one finger to frostbite on Mount Everest has died on his eighth attempt to reach the summit, officials said yesterday.

Mr Nobukazu Kuriki had fallen ill and was descending when his team lost contact with him. The 35-year-old is the third climber this month to perish on the world’s highest peak.

“Mr Kuriki stopped responding to radio communication and we couldn’t see his headlamp when we looked up from the bottom in the dark,” his team posted on Facebook.

“(The) team near Camp 2 climbed up his route to search for him and discovered Mr Kuriki who passed away due to low body temperature.”

Late on Sunday, Mr Kuriki had reached 7,400m, pushing beyond three of the four camps that mark the route to the 8,848m summit. “Now I feel the pain and difficulty of this mountain. I appreciate it and I am climbing,” he wrote on Facebook.

The conquest of Everest always eluded the experienced mountaineer, who had achieved solo ascents of two other 8,000m-plus peaks without the use of bottled oxygen.

On his fourth attempt to reach the top of Everest in 2012, Mr Kuriki developed severe frostbite and lost nine fingers. He returned three years later in September 2015, months after an earthquake hit Nepal and triggered an avalanche that killed 18 people at Everest’s base camp.

Bad weather forced him to call off that expedition. He tried again in 2016 and 2017, but inclement conditions again frustrated his quest.

Mr Man Bahadur Gurung from Bochi-Bochi Trek, who organised Mr Kuriki’s expedition, said they were trying to arrange for his body to be flown back to Kathmandu.

More than 400 people have reached Everest’s summit during this spring climbing season, when a period of calm weather typically opens the route to the top of the world.

Apart from the three deaths on Everest, at least three other climbers have died on separate mountains in Nepal this month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'Famed climber dies in 8th Everest bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe