KATHMANDU • An experienced Swiss climber died yesterday after he fell in the Everest region of Nepal during preparations to climb the world's highest mountain, the first to perish in the current climbing season, officials said.
Mr Ueli Steck, 40, died after falling to the foot of Mount Nuptse, a smaller peak in the area, said Mr Mingma Sherpa of the Seven Summits Treks company that organised Mr Steck's expedition.
Mr Steck was in the area acclimatising, ahead of a bid to climb Everest through the less-climbed West Ridge route and traverse to Lhotse, the world's fourth-highest peak at 8,516m, this month. "His body has been retrieved and is being brought to Kathmandu," Mr Sherpa said.
Mr Kamal Prasad Parajuli, an official with Nepal's Department of Tourism, confirmed Mr Steck died while climbing Nuptse and that he had planned an Everest ascent.
He said Mr Steck, who climbed Everest in 2012, "slipped and fell 1,000m" in the Western Cwm, along the normal route to Everest. The incident took place near the route's Camp Two, which is located at an altitude of 6,400m, Mr Parajuli said.
Mr Steck was one of the most feted mountaineers of his generation, famed for his speedy ascents of iconic Alpine routes. The accomplished alpinist sought to pioneer new routes throughout his mountaineering career, earning the nickname "the Swiss Machine" for his solo record ascents in the Alps.
Mr Steck hit global headlines in 2013 when he and two other Western climbers traded blows with a group of Nepali guides over a climbing dispute on Mount Everest.
An angry Mr Steck swore never to return to Everest, telling a Swiss website that his "trust (was) gone".
The brawl shocked the mountaineering community, causing a damaging rift between Western climbers and the often lowly paid Nepali guides, who are essential for commercial expeditions to the crowded summit. Hundreds of climbers are at Everest Base Camp as they prepare to climb the 8,850m Everest summit in the March to May climbing season.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE