One of Australia's most experienced mountaineers and a German climber have died near the summit of Mount Everest, bringing the total number of climbers killed on the world's highest peak this season to a record 15, the leader of their expedition said yesterday.
Australian Lincoln Hall, 50, reached the summit of Everest on Thursday but died as he was descending the mountain, team leader Alexander Abramov said in a statement posted on the Web site www.mounteverest.net.
Another member of the same team, Thomas Weber from Germany, who was visually impaired, stopped 50m short of the summit after his sight failed and also died during the descent, Abramov said.
The group, which included a Dutch guide and five sherpas, set off for the summit at midnight and Hall, with three of the sherpas, reached the peak at 9am.
"Lincoln went in good speed and joyfully informed about his success on a portable radio set," Abramov said.
But as he descended the mountain, Hall began to lose coordination and collapsed.
Although he was still able to communicate with friends over the radio, Hall died about nine hours later as sherpas tried to bring him down the mountain, Abramov said.
He said the probable cause of death was high altitude cerebral edema, a severe form of altitude sickness.
Meanwhile, Weber collapsed after descending about 100m down the mountain.
"Tomas said, 'I am dying' and lost consciousness. At 12:40 the death was verified," Abramov said.
He attributed the high number of deaths of climbers this season to unusually good weather, which has allowed more climbers to make summit attempts.
"Strangely enough, the reason for it became extremely good, windless weather," he said.
"The weather allowed plenty of climbers to reach the summit. In more severe conditions, they probably would have stopped the climb at lower heights," he said.
Hall was one of Australia's most well-known mountaineers and adventure authors. He was a member of the first Australian team to climb Mount Everest in 1984, but that bid stopped short of the summit.
He also served as a director of the Australian Himalayan Foundation and was the author of several books, including First Ascent and The Life of an Explorer and numerous magazine articles.
His last assault on Everest was part of an expedition that included 15-year-old Sydney boy Christopher Harris, who was trying to become the youngest person to climb the mountain.