Chinese climber dead, two missing during Dhaulagiri ascent

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Even as official celebrations were on to mark the golden jubilee of the first ascent of Mt Dhaulagiri, a Chinese climber was killed and two of his fellow climbers missing on the slopes of the seventh highest peak in the world, authorities said.

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Liyang Zao, a 35-year-old climber who was part of a nine-member expedition to the peak, fell to his death Saturday due to bad weather, Nepal’s tourism and civil aviation ministry said.

Two more climbers who were part of the same expedition are still missing despite a hunt for them, including helicopter searches. The chances of survival have been receding due to the freezing cold, bad weather and lack of food and shelter.

The three climbers had reached the top of the 8,167 m peak and were coming down when they ran into bad weather and a “white-out”, a thick fog that made movement difficult and dangerous.

While one member had abandoned the climb earlier, the remaining five returned to Kathmandu Saturday, exhausted and traumatised.

Two of them have been admitted to hospital with severe frost bite.

“Though Dhaulagiri is not a difficult mountain to climb yet you can never predict anything with the Himalayan ranges,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former chief of Nepal Mountaineering Association, a private body entrusted with promoting mountain tourism in Nepal.

The Dhaulagiri disaster comes as Nepal held three-day celebrations in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Baglung to mark the first ascent of the milky white peak May 13, 1960 by an Austrian-Swiss expedition.

Of the six people who had climbed the peak 50 years ago, only Kurt Diemberger, now 69, is alive.

The Austrian writer-film maker was in Kathmandu to take part in the celebrations.

This season, the Himalayan ranges have already claimed two more lives.

Last month, Russian climber Sergei Duganov died while attempting Mt Lhotse, the fourth highest peak at 8,511, and a team of climbers managed to bring his body down.

Spanish climber Tolo Calafat died of cerebral oedema last month while attempting Mt Annapurna, a tricky Himalayan peak with a 40 percent casualty incidence.