Swiss mountain guide Erhard Loretan, one of the few climbers to reach the summits of all 14 of the world’s peaks above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), died April 28 in a climbing accident on his 52nd birthday.
Swiss police said Mr. Loretan died while leading a client up the summit ridge of the Gruenhorn, a 13,264-foot mountain in the Bernese Alps.
The pair had skied up part way, then roped up for the final ascent. They were less than 1,000 vertical feet from the peak when they fell for unknown reasons.
Mr. Loretan died at the scene, Swiss police said. His 38-year-old Swiss client was flown to a hospital in serious condition.
Mr. Loretan, originally from the Swiss canton of Fribourg, began climbing at age 11. He climbed his first 8,000-meter peak, Pakistan’s difficult Nanga Parbat, in 1982. It took him 13 years to make it up the other 13 peaks.
His 1986 ascent of Mount Everest, without bottled oxygen and in a nighttime push with climbing partner Jean Troillet that took just 40 hours, stunned the alpine climbing world and made headlines in climbing magazines and newspapers.
“I think that we were young, in love with climbing,” he said at last year’s Trento Film Festival in Italy, in a video posted on its Web site. “When you’re in love you’ll do anything.”
The Everest climb helped cement his reputation as one of the world’s top mountaineers.
In 1995, he climbed his 14th and final 8,000-meter peak, Nepal’s Kangchenjunga , the third-highest mountain in the world. He was the third person, behind Italian legend Reinhold Messner and Polish mountaineer Jerzy Kukuczka, to climb all of the 8,000-meter peaks. Last year, Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban became the 25th person, and only the second woman, to pull off that feat.
Mr. Loretan’s legendary exploits in the mountains were nearly overshadowed by his guilty plea to negligent manslaughter in the death of his 7-month-old son.
He told police he had shaken the baby for a couple of seconds to stop him from crying, then put the child to bed. In 2003, he was given a four-month suspended sentence.
The case helped lead to new research showing that many parents were unaware that infants, because of weak neck muscles, can die from being shaken for only a few seconds.