World News

Japanese Climber Dies on Everest, Raising Toll This Month to 3

Posted May 21, 2018 9:29 a.m. EDT

KATHMANDU, Nepal — An accomplished Japanese alpinist and motivational speaker, who lost nine fingers to frostbite on a previous attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, died on the world’s highest peak Monday, after he slipped and fell.

The death of the climber, Nobukazu Kuriki, brought the death toll on the mountain to three this month.

“We are in shock,” said Tika Ram Gurung, managing director of Bochi-Bochi Trek, the climbing company that organized Kuriki’s trip. “It is a huge loss to the mountaineering world.”

Gurung confirmed the details of Kuriki’s death.

On Sunday, Gjeorgi Petkov, 63, a Macedonian climber, died after he collapsed from what appeared to be a cardiac arrest near Camp Three, more than 20,000 feet above sea level, on the south side of the mountain. Earlier this month, Lam Babu Sherpa went missing on Everest, which straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet. An official confirmed Sherpa’s death and said his bag and shoes had been found.

Before his final summit push Monday morning, Kuriki, 35, had updated his social media accounts to say that he was suffering from a cough and fever but that he thought he could continue climbing.

Speaking by telephone from base camp, Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, said Kuriki’s body would be airlifted to Kathmandu, the capital, for an autopsy to ascertain the exact cause of death.

Gurung, the expedition organizer, said Kuriki had also died near Camp Three.

Over the years, Kuriki amassed thousands of followers on social media and often spoke to sold-out lecture halls about the importance of perseverance.

In 2012, he lost nine of his fingers to frostbite. Two years later, he returned to mountaineering and finished a solo climb of Broad Peak in the Himalayas, the 12th-highest peak in the world, without the supplemental oxygen that most climbers use at such altitudes, where the air is dangerously thin.

In 2015, Kuriki attempted to climb Everest in the fall, a season not typically favored by climbers because of poor weather conditions, before turning back from the summit during a storm.

On social media, well-wishers expressed shock at his death.

“I have respect for you, because you continued to push forward until the very end,” Yasuhiko Kumagai, a fan, wrote under one of Kuriki’s posts. “Thank you so much for your inspiration and courage.”