Eighty-five-year-old mountaineer Min Bahadur Sherchan, who previously held the title for world’s oldest climber to top Mount Everest, died Saturday while attempting to reclaim the record, the Associated Press reports.
“He passed away at the base camp today at 5:14 p.m.,” Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with the tourism ministry, told Agence France-Presse (via Deutsche Welle) on Saturday.
Shrestha, who is stationed at the camp that sits at an elevation of 17,600 feet, said the cause of Sherchan’s death wasn’t immediately clear, although a heart attack is suspected.
This is a sad ending to Sherchan’s exciting climbing career that culminated on May 25, 2008, when he first became the oldest person to scale Mount Everest at the age of 76 years 340 days. His record was later broken in 2013 when 80-year-old Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura made it to the top.
Sherchan said his purpose for making the climb again wasn’t solely to break Miura’s record, however. He said on a GoFundMe page set up to fund his feat that he wanted his latest ascent of Everest to lift “the morale of all people” on Earth, as well as to campaign for “peace” and “protection of [the] Earth.”
Born in a remote village in western Nepal in 1931, Sherchan fought for the British Army as a Gurkha soldier in his youth. Before returning to Nepal this year to climb Everest, he had been living in the United Kingdom, where he was a grandfather of 17 and great-grandfather of six, according to the Associated Press.
Sherchan’s death comes at a time when a record number of climbers have flocked to Everest.
According to the AP, the Nepalese Tourism Department issued 371 permits this year to climbers seeking to top the 29,035-foot mountain. Those permits do not include the 371 Nepalese Sherpa guides who will accompany the climbers.
Already, however, that number is down two climbers after the deaths of Sherchan and Ueli Steck, a famed Swiss mountaineer. Steck, 40, died near the mountain last week when he fell 3,280 feet while attempting to reach a high camp to acclimate to the lowered oxygen levels ahead of his Sherpa guide who was a base camp nursing a frostbitten hand, according to the New York Times.