Nobukazu Kuriki was 26 years old when he first attempted to climb Mount Everest. He came up short but vowed to return. And he did, seven more times. During a summit attempt in 2012, he lost nine fingers from frostbite. By 2015, he was back for another shot at the world’s tallest mountain. This morning, Kuriki, 35, died at Base Camp 2, according to reports.
With radio communication currently unavailable, the cause of death isn’t immediately clear. Some reports indicate that he fell to his death. Others say Sherpas found him unresponsive in his tent. But we know that he wasn’t the only one to die on Mount Everest in recent days. On Saturday, 63-year-old Gjeorgi Petkov from Macedonia stopped breathing after suffering a heart attack.
Just a few days ago, Kuriki’s summit seemed to be within reach. Posts on his blog indicate that he had battled a cough and fever for half of the expedition, but by Saturday, the symptoms seemed to be abating. “I think I have a chance now,” he wrote. But on Sunday, he confessed that he was feeling the “pain and difficulty” of the mountain. He hoped his efforts would provide inspiration to others undertaking their own personal challenges.
Base Camp 2, where he died, is at 21,000 feet. Petkov, who died on Sunday, was at Camp 3, 23,625 feet. Their deaths aren’t the only ones this season. Lama Babu Sherpa, who went missing more than a week ago, is presumed dead, while Russian climber Rustem Amirov died last week on the nearby Himalayan mountain Lhotse.
This season, local authorities have issued 346 permits to summit Everest from the Nepal and 180 from Tibet. By and large, the efforts have been successful. Alan Arnette, a summit coach who himself climbed Everest four times, reports approximately 500 summits so far, along with a handful of world records. In recent days, Steve Plain set the fastest time for reaching the world’s Seven Summits, Lhakpa Sherpa set a new women’s record with her 9th ascent, and Ngima Nuru Sherpa became the youngest climber to reach the top 21 times. Of course, even accomplished climbers risk their lives when they attempt to summit the 29,029-foot mountain. In addition to his seven previous Everest runs, Kuriki had successfully summited the highest peaks on six other continents, and without the use of oxygen, he’d reached the top of three Himalayan peaks above 8,000 meters, roughly 26,240 feet.
We’ll update this story when more information about his death is available.