Austrian climber found dead on Nepal peak

KATHMANDU: An Austrian climber has been found dead in the Himalayas after attempting a solo ascent of a peak in Nepal’s Everest region, officials said Friday, the first death since new laws were introduced banning lone climbs.

The 41-year-old climber is believed to have died in late December after falling from a ridge on his way to the 6,119 metre (20,075 feet) summit of Mount Lobuche’s eastern peak, which neighbours Mount Everest.

“He left his guide at high camp and his plan was to climb to the summit alone. The guide waited until 2:00 am the next morning and when he didn’t return, the guide went to Lobuche village and raised the alarm,” said Raju Dong Lama, director of Ramdung Expeditions, which organised the climb.

A search operation on foot and with helicopters took 10 days to find the climber’s body, Lama said.

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The death is the first since Nepal introduced new rules banning solo climbers from scaling its biggest mountains late last year. He is thought to have started his climb before the new rules were introduced.

The government says the new law aims to make mountaineering safer and decrease deaths.

“This is first death of a solo climber after the government banned solo climbers from mountaineering. We are planning to take initiatives to impose this ban strictly to save lives in the Himalayas now,” said Shanta Bir Lama, the chairman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

The new law has angered elite solo mountaineers, who enjoy the challenge of climbing alone, and who say the problem lies with the huge influx of commercial expeditions that attract inexperienced clients and create potentially deadly bottlenecks on the world’s tallest peaks.

Thousands of mountaineers flock to Nepal — home to eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres — each spring and autumn when clear weather provides good climbing conditions.

Winter ascents are rarer, attracting more intrepid climbers who want to test their limits.

Experienced Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon is currently on Everest attempting the first winter summit of the world’s highest peak in more than two decades.

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