Thirty-year-old Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki had to be evacuated from Mount Everest yesterday after suffering severe frostbite to his fingers, toes and nose. He had spent the past six weeks climbing one of the most difficult routes on the mountain, but was turned back from the summit due to poor weather conditions.
Kuriki had been attempting one of the boldest climbs on Everest in recent memory, going up the seldom-visited West Ridge alone and without the use of supplemental oxygen. He launched his summit bid last Wednesday after spending several days in Camp 2, located at 6500 meters (21,300 feet), waiting for the weather to improve. At the time, forecasts had indicated that high winds would drop in velocity, allowing access to the top of the mountain for a limited time, but even though he was able to climb as high as Camp 4, at 7920 meters (26,000 feet), Kuriki was never able to go higher.
On his descent, high winds and very cold temperatures likely contributed to the Japanese climbers frostbite, which was exasperated further by his decision to not use bottled oxygen. His numerous days at altitude were also likely contributing factors as well. A rescue helicopter was able to evacuate him from the mountain, taking him directly to a hospital in Kathmandu, where the extent of his injuries is still being evaluated.
Unlike the spring climbing season, in the fall Everest is practically deserted. This year, in addition to Kuriki, there was only one other team on the mountain. The unpredictable weather in the autumn makes it much more difficult to climb as well, and while in the spring there were more than 500 successful summits, it appears there won’t be any this fall.
[Photo credit: Nobukazu Kuriki]