Body of Kenyan mountaineer who died on Mount Everest to remain on mountain, family says

The family of a Kenyan mountaineer, who died while attempting to become the first African to climb Mount Everest without extra oxygen, has said that his body would remain on the mountain.

As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui, 40, was found dead near the mountain’s summit. He was with his 44-year-old Nepali guide Nawang Sherpa when they both went missing last Wednesday.

Per BBC, Kirui died after falling into a crevasse with Sherpa. But Sherpa is yet to be located. The deceased Kenyan’s family said it would be a dangerous task for the rescue team to retrieve his body due to the high altitude.

However, officials with Nepal’s tourism department said it is illegal not to retrieve bodies from the mountain. A Nepalese official also said that the operator that managed Kirui’s expedition was required to hand over a commitment letter to confirm they were going to return with his body during the next climbing season.

“This time it was already towards the end of the spring climbing season so logistically it would not have been possible to bring the body down.” The official also said Kirui’s body could be accessed, per BBC.

Dambar Parajuli, who is the president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal, also said the association had reached an agreement about bringing down easily accessible bodies. Parajuli said bodies had to be returned if accessibility wasn’t an issue.

“But we have also told the government that those bodies that have fallen into crevasses or, say, have fallen towards Tibet (Everest runs along the border between Nepal and China), or have been deeply buried under snow cannot be brought down,” Parajuli said.

Following his death, Kirui’s close hiking friend, Kipkemoi Limo, told the news outlet that the 40-year-old’s family and friends were yet to determine the place of burial the deceased mountaineer had agreed on – whether Everest or back home in Kenya. Be it the latter, Limo said $190,000 was needed to repatriate his body to the East African nation.

But Kirui’s family in a statement on Wednesday said the decision to ultimately allow for his body to remain on the mountain was a “difficult” one, adding that it made that choice after significant discussions and “careful consideration of all the circumstances.”

“Retrieving his body from that high up would be risky for the rescue team, the family does not wish to endanger any life,” the family said. “Cheruiyot had a deep love for the mountains and they loved him in return. We find solace in knowing that he is resting in his happy place.”

His family also said memorial services would be held in his honor in the capital, Nairobi, and his village. Mount Everest is the world’s highest peak, and climbing it is regarded as an arduous task irrespective of any climber’s experience.

Prior to embarking on the challenge, Kirui in an email to BBC said he had prepared adequately for the task ahead. “The major/specific preparation was climbing Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world in 2023 September,” the deceased mountaineer wrote.

“However I’ve been climbing locally in Kenya, many stair climbs, gym workouts and running as specific preparation. Also for 10 years I’ve climbed, ran marathons and ultra marathons which adds to the general preparations.”

Kirui in an Instagram post also shared his optimism about reaching the summit of Mount Everest without needing extra oxygen. He informed the news outlet that contingency measures had, however, been put in place in case he experienced any setbacks. He said Sherpa would give him emergency oxygen support if need be, adding that arrangements had also been made for an emergency evacuation if there were any challenges.

About 330 climbers have died on Mount Everest, and the estimated number of bodies that remain on the world’s highest mountain stands at almost 200. 

Francis Akhalbey

A reader once told me I lack the emotional maturity to cope with mythological breasts. I support Manchester United, by the way. And L.A. Lakers.

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