Nepalese Sherpas climb Mount Everest for the 28th time as the death toll rises to 11

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – A Nepalese sherpa reached the summit of Mount Everest for the 28th time on Tuesday, completing his second ascent in just one week, as the death toll for this year’s climbing season rose to 11, a Nepali official said.

Kami Rita Sherpa, 53, reached the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) summit via the traditional southeast ridge route, after making his 27th ascent last week, said Bijyan Koirala, Nepal’s tourism official.

Pioneered by summer pioneers, New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, the route remains the most popular trail to the highest peak in the world.

“Kami Rita is on his way from the summit,” said Thaneswar Goragai, general manager of his employer, Seven Summit Treks, who says climbing is a Sherpa passion.

“He went up with other clients but we are awaiting details.”

Kami Rita first climbed Mount Everest in 1994, and has done so almost every year since then, except for three years when authorities closed the mountain for various reasons.

“He developed a deep passion for climbing from a young age and has been mountaineering for more than two decades,” the company said last week.

Separately, Guragay said deaf American couple Scott Lyman and Sheena Unger climbed Mount Lotus, the world’s fourth-highest mountain, at 8,516 meters (29,939 feet), on Tuesday, the day after they climbed Everest, becoming “the first such couple to climb the two peaks.”

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Another Sherpa climber climbed Everest for the 27th time this week, the most number of summits after Kami Rita, while British climber Kenton Cole climbed last week for the 17th time, the most by a foreigner.

However, the dangers the mountain poses to many climbers were reflected in two additional deaths over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 11 since April.

One of them, a Nepalese man working to clean the mountain, died on Monday, the Nepali army said in a statement. Equipment and other items left over from climbing trips can lie on the mountain for decades.

An Australian engineer died while descending from the summit Friday in the death zone above 26,000 feet (7,925 meters), which is infamous for the thin air that can cause sudden bouts of altitude sickness.

Jason Kinison, 40, may have died from weakness in the terrace area between the summit and the last camp, Ang Tshering Sherpa of the Asian Trekking Co said on Tuesday.

“It was carried by the Sherpas but collapsed after reaching the balcony area,” he said.

Hiking officials said strong winds thwarted efforts to transport more oxygen canisters for Kinnison from the last camp.

Kinison’s mother, Jill, told a news conference in his hometown of Malala, about 60km (37 miles) north of Adelaide.

And his brother, Adrian, added on Monday: “On the descent when he suddenly fell ill and that’s when he died.”

They added that the toll of 11 includes three Sherpas who died in the April Sirak fall on the lower parts of the mountain, while others died due to illness, weakness and various causes.

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Officials said two climbers, one from Singapore and one from Malaysia, have gone missing over the past three days.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma). Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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