News, Culture & Society

Two climbers, an American and a Swiss, die from exhaustion in first fatalities on Everest this year

An American and a Swiss climber have died from exhaustion on Mount Everest, the first fatalities on the world’s highest peak this season, expedition organizers in Nepal said today. 

Puwei Lui, 55, from the US, and Abdul Waraich, 41, from Switzerland, collapsed while descending the slopes of the mountain on Wednesday, hiking company officials said on Thursday.  

‘Additional sherpas were sent with supplies and oxygen but unfortunately they could not save them,’ said Thaneshwar Guragai, a manager of the expedition organizer, Seven Summit Treks in Nepal. 

Mr Waraich, who was on his way down after reaching the 29,029 feet (8,848 metres) summit, died near the south summit, according to Chhang Dawa Sherpa, another official of the company.   

Puwei Lui, 55, from the US, and Abdul Waraich, 41, (pictured) from Switzerland, collapsed while descending the slopes of the mountain on Wednesday, hiking company officials said on Thursday

The two deaths are the first fatalities on the world's highest peak this season (file photo)

The two deaths are the first fatalities on the world’s highest peak this season (file photo)

‘Abdul successfully reached the summit but began experiencing issues during his descent,’ he said. ‘We sent two additional Sherpas with oxygen and food. Unfortunately, the Sherpas couldn’t save him.’

Mr Lui died at the highest camp on the mountain at South Col. He had reached the Hillary Step – an outcrop just below the summit – but could not go any further after he suffered snow blindness and exhaustion.

With the help of support team members and additional oxygen, Mr Lui was brought back to the camp at South Col, which is at a height of 25,918 feet (7,900 metres), but died on Wednesday evening, the organizers said.

The bodies will be brought back down when the weather clears, organizers said.

No other details were given on the dead climbers and when their bodies would be brought down. Bad weather conditions have forced climbers to descend to lower altitudes for now.

Carrying bodies down the icy and slippery slopes from the highest altitudes is a difficult task that takes lots of time, requires several Sherpa workers and is generally very costly.    

Mr Waraich, (pictured in Nepal) who was on his way down after reaching the 29,029 feet (8,848 metres) summit, died near the south summit, according to Chhang Dawa Sherpa, another official of the company

Mr Waraich, (pictured in Nepal) who was on his way down after reaching the 29,029 feet (8,848 metres) summit, died near the south summit, according to Chhang Dawa Sherpa, another official of the company

Victim: Abdul Waraich

Victim: Abdul Waraich

Tributes have poured in on social media for the climbers.   

‘May their departed souls rest in peace,’ said Sherpa. ‘We express our sadness and deepest sympathy over the passing of Mr. Abdul and Mr. Liu.’ 

Mr Puwei was described as having a ‘genuine passion for alpinism’ by his friend Sungil Nam. 

He wrote on Facebook: ‘Puwei, it is such a frightening and sad news to hear your passing. We shared a tent on our climb to Muztagh Ata in 2016. 

‘Cannot express my sorrow on this tragedy. May your soul be in peace!

‘Your genuine passion for alpinism will be remembered.’

Mr Waraich, a senior engineer for NGO The International Association of Ahmad Architects & Engineers (IAAAE), was described as a ‘kind’ and ‘humble’ man.

Wofa Mohammed, an Imam at a mosque where Mr Waraich frequented, said on Twitter: ‘Abdul Waheed Waraich was a very humble kind and a devoted man, May Allah give him high ranks in paradise and steadfastness and patience to all the bereaved. Amin.’ 

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, a group of mosques in Germany, paid tribute to Mr Waraich, who was the local president of a mosque in Waldshut, which is on the border with Switzerland.    

‘We are deeply saddened by the loss of our very dear brother Abdul Waheed Waraich, local president of AMJ Waldshut, who passed away on 11 May 2021 during the descent after conquering Mount Everest and completing his mission to raise the Liwa-e-Ahmadiyyat [the flag of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community] on the top of all 7 continents of the world,’ the group said. 

‘He was a dedicated member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Germany. He will be remembered as a person with great character, humility and kindness.

‘May he rest in peace and may Allah grant his family the strength to bear this loss. Ameen.’

Mr Waraich, a senior engineer for NGO The International Association of Ahmad Architects & Engineers (IAAAE), was described as a 'kind' and 'humble' man

Mr Waraich, a senior engineer for NGO The International Association of Ahmad Architects & Engineers (IAAAE), was described as a ‘kind’ and ‘humble’ man

The IAAAE said in a statement: ‘It is with a heavy heart that we must report on his way back from Mount Everest [Waraich’s] health deteriorated and he passed away. 

‘Warraich was a key senior member of the IAAAE family who served humanity selflessly. You are requested to remember him and his family members in your prayers.’    

Everest has been scaled by more than 6,000 climbers since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953. At least 311 people have died on its slopes.

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

But in recent seasons, Everest has seen a surge in the number of climbers, leading to overcrowding that has been blamed for multiple deaths. 

Eleven people died climbing the world’s highest peak in 2019, with four deaths blamed on overcrowding. 

On one day, 354 people were lined up to reach the top from Nepal’s southern side and Tibet’s northern approach.

To ease the crowding, Nepal’s tourism ministry announced rules capping the number of people who can summit the mountain per window of suitable weather.

Expedition organisers have been told to send teams up the peak in accordance with permit numbers or to limit the climbers who go up at one time. 

Nepal has issued 408 climbing permits this season, topping the previous record of 381 in 2019. 

After a Nepali team fixed the rope to the summit on Friday, more than 200 climbers and guides have reached the top.

A city of tents hosting more than 1,000 people – foreign climbers and support staff – has built up at the foot of Everest and the hotels along the trek are back in business.   

In this aerial photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, base camp is seen on May 25, 2020. China will draw a 'separation line' atop Mount Everest to prevent the coronavirus from being spread by climbers ascending from Nepal's side of the mountain

In this aerial photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, base camp is seen on May 25, 2020. China will draw a ‘separation line’ atop Mount Everest to prevent the coronavirus from being spread by climbers ascending from Nepal’s side of the mountain

The Covid-19 outbreak at Mount Everest Base Camp has seen dozens of climbers evacuated from base camp, it has been claimed. The Base Camp is pictured above

The Covid-19 outbreak at Mount Everest Base Camp has seen dozens of climbers evacuated from base camp, it has been claimed. The Base Camp is pictured above 

The pandemic wiped out last year’s season, but Nepal has eased quarantine rules to attract more climbers despite the difficulties of treating them if they contract the coronavirus.

The warmer weather that ushers in safer conditions for scaling Nepal’s dangerous, snow-capped peaks has coincided with a deadly second wave of Covid-19 infections. 

In recent weeks more than 30 sick climbers have been evacuated from base camp, although only three have been confirmed as having had coronavirus.

The usual communal parties are absent this year at base camps after expedition groups were asked to keep to themselves and avoid socialising with others.

Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes so any coronavirus outbreak among climbing groups could pose severe health risks.

On Sunday, Chinese state media reported that authorities would set up a ‘separation line’ on the peak of Mount Everest to avoid possible Covid-19 infections by climbers from virus-hit Nepal.

The world’s highest peak straddles the China-Nepal border, with the north slope belonging to China.

Tibetan authorities told reporters they would take the ‘most stringent epidemic prevention measures’ to avoid contact between climbers on the north and south slopes or at the top, reported the official Xinhua news agency.

Guides would set up dividing lines on the summit before allowing mountaineers to start the gruelling climb up, the head of the Tibet Mountaineering Association was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

China has banned foreign nationals from climbing Everest since last year due to the virus outbreak.       

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk