Three dead, two missing on crowded Everest

A Canadian woman has died pursuing her dream of scaling Mount Everest.

KATMANDU, Nepal — A Canadian woman has died pursuing her dream of scaling Mount Everest.

Shriya Shah-Klorfine, of Toronto, was among four people who died while descending from the summit Saturday in what are being described as overcrowded conditions.

“My wife was someone who lived life to its fullest, with irrepressible energy and vitality,” her husband Bruce Klorfine said in a statement emailed to The Canadian Press.

“She died in the pursuit of her dreams, and with the satisfaction of having achieved them.”

Shah-Klorfine’s website said she was the first South Asian woman from Canada to make the attempt to raise the Canadian flag at the top of the world’s highest peak.

“Her ambition is to become Canada’s 4th Canadian woman to make the climb and encouraging the youth and helping SickKids hospital” said a statement on a website dedicated to Shah-Klorfine’s Everest expedition.

Two of the climbers who died were believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha said. Two others were initially reported missing Monday as officials were still gathering details from descending climbers.

However, officials later reported they had found the body of a Chinese climber, Wang-yi Fa, 55. His Nepalese Sherpa guide was still missing.

Shah-Klorfine and Fa were killed when the mountainside was hit by strong winds, according to Dipendra Paude of Nepal’s tourism ministry.

The two other victims were identified as German doctor Eberhard Schaaf, 62, and 44-year-old South Korean mountaineer Song Won-bin.

The death toll raised concerns about overcrowding in what’s known as the “death zone” at the top of Everest.

An estimated 150 climbers tried to reach the top Friday and Saturday as they rushed to use a brief window of good weather in an otherwise troubled climbing season. Many had been waiting at a staging camp for several days for their chance to head to the summit.

“There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m., which is quite dangerous,” Shrestha said.

Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at the South Col is nicknamed the “death zone” because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

“With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent,” Shrestha said.

Born in Kathmandu, Nepal, the 33-year-old Shah-Klorfine grew up in Mumbai, India and moved to Canada to be with her husband and start an import business, SOS Splash of Style Inc.

Her adopted country soon became central to her convictions as she involved herself in social and political groups, including the Conservative Party of Canada, where she was on the board of directors as secretary to the party’s Toronto-Davenport riding association.

Her desire to climb Mount Everest was also intermingled with her patriotism. “This is my dream and passion, and (I) want to do something for my country,” Shah-Klorfine wrote on her website.

“Nothing is impossible in this world, even the word ’impossible’ says ’I M POSSIBLE’!”

The climbing season on Everest runs from late March to the first week in June, and the Nepalese government places no limits on how many climbers can be on the 8,850-metre mountain. The season’s first clear conditions were on Friday and Saturday, but that window already was closing by Saturday afternoon with a windstorm at higher altitudes, Shrestha said.

Ang Tshering, an Everest expert and former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said the government should impose schedules so that scores of climbers are not trying to head for the summit on the same day.

Tshering said the race to the summit on Saturday meant that climbers likely expended all their energy on the way up and had little left for the descent.

The deadliest day on Everest was May 10, 1996, when eight people were killed. The main reason was said to be that climbers who started their ascent late in the day were caught in a snowstorm in the afternoon.

– with files from the Associated Press.

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