Jason Kennison (left) died while descending Mount Everest.
Jason Kennison (left) died while descending Mount Everest.

French climber dies in Nepal, two Mongolians missing

KATHMANDU: A French climber died on Mount Makalu, the world’s fifth-highest peak, expedition organizers said Tuesday, while search and rescue operations were underway for two Mongolian men who went missing while attempting to summit Mount Everest. Johnny Saliba, 60, died at an altitude of 8,120 meters (26,640 feet) during his summit push on Sunday, becoming the second fatality of this year’s spring climbing season in Nepal.

“He was heading to the summit but his guide brought him down after he suffered symptoms of altitude sickness. And then he passed away,” said Bodha Raj Bhandari, expedition organizer at Snowy Horizon Treks and Expedition. Bhandari added that Saliba’s family had been informed and efforts were underway to retrieve his body.

He was part of a French team on the 8,485-metre-tall (27,838-feet) mountain and the other members safely returned to the base camp. Last week, a 53-year-old Nepali guide died on the same peak as he was descending after reaching the summit. The Mongolian climbers attempting to climb Everest, Usukhjargal Tsedendamba, 53, and Prevsuren Lkhagvajav, 31, were last in contact Sunday evening from Camp 4 at 7,900 meters. “They informed on Sunday evening that they were heading to the summit at 7:30 pm from Camp 4. We have not been able to reach them after that,” Pemba Sherpa of 8k Expeditions, which handled their base camp stay and permits, told AFP.

Sherpa said the two men were climbing without guides and that their walkie-talkie had been found in their tent, with four Nepali guides dispatched to search for them. Nepal’s tourism department said in a statement that another team had spotted the duo “heading towards Everest’s summit” on Monday morning but both climbers had been “out of contact” since.

Hundreds of climbers have flocked to Nepal - home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks - for summits in the spring climbing season when temperatures are warm and winds are typically calm. Nepal has this year issued 59 permits to foreign climbers for Makalu - costing $1,800 each, compared to $11,000 for Everest - and dozens have reached the top after a rope-fixing team submitted the peak last month. Nepal has issued more than 900 permits for its mountains this year, including 414 for Everest, earning over $5 million in royalties. — AFP

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