KATHMANDU: An Indian mountaineer became the second climber to die in the Himalayas this week after falling ill while descending Mount Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh-highest peak, an expedition agency said Friday.
Rajib Bhattacharya, an experienced climber who reached the top of Mount Everest in 2011, was on his way down after scaling 8,167-metre high Dhaulagiri when he passed away on Thursday afternoon.
“He had suffered a bout of snow blindness earlier in the day and stopped breathing around 4:00 pm,” Mingma Sherpa, managing director of Seven Summit Treks told AFP.
The 43-year-old mountaineer had also complained to teammates about feeling unwell during his descent, Sherpa said.
“We will know more about the cause of death once his team returns to base camp,” he said.
A Nepali sherpa guide fell 2,000 metres to his death the same day while guiding Indian soldiers on an attempt to summit Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest peak.
The deaths cast a shadow over a successful season on Mount Everest, which has seen nearly 300 summits since last week, ending a years-long drought after two disasters.
Nine Nepalis last week became the first group of climbers in three years to summit the world’s highest peak, paving the way for others to follow.
“So far 290 climbers have successfully scaled Mount Everest. Of them 202 summited on Thursday alone,” said tourism department chief Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal.
Hundreds of climbers fled the 8,850-metre peak last year after an earthquake-triggered avalanche at Everest base camp killed 18 people.
Only one climber summitted the mountain in 2014 after an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides. China’s Wang Jing reached the top after using a helicopter to transport tent equipment to higher camps following the cancellation of that year’s mountaineering season.
Nepal issued 289 permits to foreign mountaineers for this year’s brief spring climbing season, which runs from mid-April to the end of May.
Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for the impoverished Himalayan nation but last year’s earthquake, which killed almost 9,000 people, threatened the future of the country’s climbing and trekking industry.