French mountaineer dies on Mount Makalu

French mountaineer dies on Mount Makalu
French mountaineer dies on Mount Makalu

Johnny Saliba, a 60-year-old French mountaineer, “was heading towards the summit (of Mount Makalu), but as he showed symptoms of altitude sickness, his guide took him down. Then he died,” on Sunday at an altitude of 8,120 m, said Bodha Raj Bhandari, expedition organizer at Snowy Horizon Treks and Expedition. Mr. Saliba’s family has been informed of his death, Mr. Bhandari added, adding that efforts were being made to recover his body.

The climber was part of a French team which climbed Mount Makalu peaking at 8,485 meters. All returned safely to base camp. This is the second death of the mountaineering season after that of Lakpa Tenji Sherpa, a 53-year-old Nepalese guide, who died last week while descending from Makalu, the summit of which he had reached.

Nepal has issued 59 permits to foreign climbers for Makalu and dozens of them have already reached its summit. Hundreds of climbers flock to Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, to climb these peaks in spring when temperatures are mild and winds generally lower.

The mountaineering industry, now worth several million dollars, relies on the experience of “sherpas”, these Nepalese mountain people, serving as guides. They pay a heavy price to support hundreds of climbers each year. A third of the deaths on Everest are Nepalese guides. Every year, “icefall doctors”, Sherpas specializing in securing the route to the summits, go upstream to prepare the climbing route using ropes and ladders.

Every spring, these ultra-experienced sherpas are the first to reach the summit of Everest at 8,849 meters above sea level, opening a safe circuit, away from dizzying crevasses, through the constantly changing ice, such as the famous and perilous waterfall of the Khumbu glacier. Nepal has issued more than 900 permits to climb its mountains to foreign climbers this year, including 414 for Everest.

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