US climber dies on Everest in season’s fourth fatality

More than 600 climbers are aiming to summit other Himalayan mountains this season. 


A US mountaineer has died on Everest in the fourth fatality on the world’s highest peak this climbing season.

Jonathan Sugarman, 69, was on an acclimatisation rotation at around 6,400 metres (21,000 feet) when he died on Monday, his expedition organiser said.

“He was feeling unwell and passed away at Camp 2. Efforts are underway to bring (back) his body,” Pasang Tshering Sherpa of Beyul Adventure told AFP.

‘Deep sorrow’

“We are trying to send a helicopter but it is snowing and the weather is not favourable,” he said. 

Beyul Adventure is a local partner of US-based expedition organiser International Mountain Guides, which confirmed “with deep sorrow” Sugarman’s death.

“We can confirm that this event was not the result of a climbing accident or route condition that would be of potential impact or safety concern to any other teams on the mountain,” IMG chief Eric Simonson said in a statement on the company’s website.

Last year, Sugarman reached Camp 3 on Everest before abandoning a climb.

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This year’s spring climbing season on Everest had a tragic start last month with the death of three Nepali climbers.

The trio were crossing the treacherous Khumbu icefall as part of a supply mission when a block of glacial ice fell and swept them into a deep crevasse.

Nepali guides — usually ethnic Sherpas from nearby valleys — are essential to the multimillion-dollar industry, bearing huge risks to prepare climbing routes and carry food and equipment.

– Everest traffic jam –

Nepal has issued 466 permits to foreign climbers, and since most will need a guide, more than 900 people will try to summit this season, which runs until early June.

This could result in heavy traffic and bottlenecks en route to the summit, especially if there is a shorter climbing window because of unfavourable weather.

On average, around five climbers die every year on the world’s highest peak.

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But in 2019, 11 people died, with four of the deaths blamed on overcrowding.

It is possible that climate change is exacerbating the risks, with climbers reporting widening crevasses, running water on previously snowy slopes and more glacial lake formation.

Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks and welcomes hundreds of adventurers each spring, when temperatures are warm and winds are typically calm.

More than 600 climbers are aiming to summit other Himalayan mountains this season. 

Last month Northern Irish climber Noel Hanna, 56, died on Annapurna, the world’s 10th highest mountain, which has an even higher death rate than Everest.

The 56-year-old adventurer was returning after a successful summit of the 8,091-metre (26,545-foot) peak when he died at Camp 4.

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A day later, record-holding Indian climber Baljeet Kaur, 28, and compatriot Arjun Vajpai, 30, were both rescued from Annapurna after a search lasting hours.

Later, a third Indian climber, Anurag Maloo, 34, was rescued alive after falling 300 metres (985 feet) into a crevasse.

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