For Nobukazu Kuriki, the 2012 attempt to summit Mount Everest was costly.
Strong winds from a sudden blizzard had derailed the Japanese climber’s fourth attempt up the world’s tallest mountain. For two days, he cowered inside an improvised emergency shelter that mountaineers call a snowhole as winds howled, and temperatures plunged below zero.
The snow shelter kept him alive — but by the time he emerged, Kuriki had frostbite so bad, he would ultimately lose parts of nine fingers. For a few despondent days in a hospital, he also lost the will to climb.
“Before my fingers were amputated, I phoned my father,” he said in recounting the incident on his YouTube channel. “The first thing he said was, ‘Congratulations.’ I asked him what for; he said because I survived.”
But, he continued: “My dream is not only climbing Mount Everest. My real goal is [to] overcome the barrier of negativity.”
Two years later, he made a triumphant return to climbing, scaling Broad Peak in the Himalayas — the 12th-highest point in the world.
The next year, he was back on Everest. But the summit would forever remain out of reach.
Kuriki died Monday during his eighth unsuccessful attempt to climb to the top of Everest, tourism officials told the Japan Times.
During this most recent climb, Kuriki had suffered from a persistent cough, fever and unspecified pain, according to a post on his Facebook page.
But the post said he was feeling better, and intended to press on.
“The cough and fever that [I had] in the first half are almost gone,” he said Saturday, ending the note optimistically. “I think there is a chance now … Everyone, thank you for your support.”
He went missing about 11:30 p.m. Sunday night and sent an emergency radio message to his climbing guides from Camp III, the Japan Times reported.
They attempted a rescue, but it was too late.
Every year, about 1,200 people attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, an often congested dash to the top during the short climbing season in May, according to the New York Times.
And for most of the last decade, Kuriki was among them.
He was born in Hokkaido and began to pursue his dream of climbing the world’s highest peaks in college. By the time he was 35, he had climbed the tallest points of six continents.
He had made successful solo attempts on Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, in 2004, and also had successfully climbed Mount Aconcagua, in Argentina, Mount Elbrus, in Russia, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Carstensz Pyramid, according to the Himalayan Times.
This year, Kuriki was climbing Everest the hard way, going without supplemental oxygen, making him susceptible to the hallucinations and pulmonary edema of altitude sickness in the dangerously thin air.
Succeed or fail, he wanted to bring the world with him, hiking with a team that recorded his ascent and broadcast his adventure on his Facebook page and his website.
“My real goal is for people to share experiences of overcoming failures and setbacks,” he said in one video. “Through sharing my adventure I also share my failures and setbacks.”
The life as a mountaineer had brought him fame in his home country.
He had a publicist and had written two books and appeared in several TV series and documentaries. He gave 80 lectures a year, according to his website, “motivating people through team building and new employee training sessions, as well as education to realize dreams at school.”
He told people he was not bitter about his failures, even the one that had left him permanently disfigured.
“In my experience, the mountains that I could not summit made a greater impression on me than the ones that I successfully climbed,” he said in the video.
“I don’t have bitter memories at all. Rather, that they overwhelmed me, and taught me modesty and humility. That is to say, being challenged means that you can benefit from something that rises above success, failure, victory, and defeat.”
In the end, he frequently told people, his climbs up Everest and other peaks had taught him perseverance through pain.
This, he said, is what he wanted people to say about him: “He suffers so much and he’s still climbing.”