KATMANDU – Mountaineer Chizuko Kono died of exhaustion last week while climbing in the Himalayas, while a Spanish climber was killed by an avalanche on the same mountain, Kono’s Sherpa and Nepalese officials said Tuesday.
Dawa Sherpa, who was with the 66-year-old Kono until her death, said she died last Thursday night at an altitude of 7,700 meters on Mount Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh-highest peak, even though he tried to give her a high concentration of oxygen.
“It was the biggest tragedy of my life,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials in Nepal’s Tourism Ministry said Spanish climber Juanjo Garra died and a Nepalese Sherpa was missing after they were hit by an avalanche on the 8,167-meter-high mountain.
Dawa, who was airlifted from the mountain’s base camp to Katmandu on Tuesday, said Kono told him she wished to continue climbing the mountain despite knowing about the accident involving the Spanish climber, who had been ahead of them.
“After that accident, Kono wanted to try to reach the top. We continued our climb last Thursday, but she was too tired to go on. So we abandoned the climb just about 120 meters shy of the summit,” Dawa said.
“Unfortunately, there was too much wind and fog and we could not see the way down as the climbing route we had used to climb up had already been buried by snow,” he said. “We could not reach our tent at Camp 4, located at an altitude of 7,500 meters. Instead, we stayed at 7,700 meters and she died of weakness Thursday night.”
The Japan Workers’ Alpine Federation said Tuesday it had received information from Nepal that contact with Kono had been lost since last Wednesday.
The Japanese Embassy in Nepal said it received a report from Nepalese authorities that they flew helicopters to search for the missing and had spotted what looked like a woman’s body.
The Press Trust of India said an avalanche occurred near a base camp around 8,000 meters on Mt. Dhaulagiri, hitting some of the 21 climbers there.
Before leaving Japan in April, Kono said it would be her final attempt to scale an 8,000-meter-class mountain.
Kono, a resident of Nerima Ward, Tokyo, became a serious climber in her 50s and was known as a “seven summiter” — an honorific given to those who have successfully scaled the highest peaks on the seven continents.