Five perish in Kangchenjunga tragedy

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 24/05/2013
Kangchenjunga from the north. Lindsay Griffin

The five climbers that are now presumed dead on the world's third highest peak include Hungary's most accomplished high altitude mountaineer, Zsolt Eross.

As usual, details at this stage are still unclear, but it appears that teams set out from Camp 4 (7,600-7,700m) on the Normal Route between 6:00pm and  9.00pm on the 19th May, a Sherpa team ahead having fixed ropes to ca 8,200m.

Throughout the night and next day, progress appears to have been steady but slow. Eventually, a reported 11 people (but possibly more), including those from China, Italy, Iran and Spain, reached the 8,586m summit.

For Eross, his Hungarian partner Peter Kiss, and others, including the well known Catalan Oscar Cadiach, this was around 6:00pm, more or less 24 hours after the Hungarians set out.

Eross and Kiss, who appeared to be in good spirits, radioed their success to base camp, and this was quickly transmitted to Eross's wife, Hilda Sterczer, at home with young children.

For Sterczar, herself a highly accomplished mountaineer, this news immediately set off alarm bells.

The Hungarians are thought to have left the summit last. Two hours later Eross radioed again to say he was very weak and had not progressed far. The two were forced to spend a night out in the open at 8,300m, where the temperature was estimated at -30°C

Next morning Kiss radioed to say that Eross was not in great shape but they were both descending slowly.

It is thought they reached the ropes and maybe descended as far as ca 8,000m. A Spanish report infers that Eross was overheard on the radio saying that Kiss had fallen, but after this neither climber made contact again.

Three other summiteers also died during the descent: Park Nam-Su, one of two Koreans to reach the top, and two Nepalese, Dorji Phurba Sherpa and Bibas Gurung.

A Sherpa team, regaining Camp 4, saw no sign above of any of the five climbers.

While Kiss was considered one of Hungary's most promising young climbers, Eross was a veteran high altitude mountaineer; Kangchenjunga was his 10th 8,000m peak.

Born March 1968 in Romania, Eross later became a Hungarian citizen and mountain guide.

At the age of 25 he gained the Snow Leopard award, having climbed the four 7,000m peak, plus Khan Tengri, in the former Soviet Union.

His quest to climb all 14 8,000m peaks began in 1999 when he made a first ascent on Nanga Parbat. After acclimatizing on 6,608m Ganalo Peak, Eross soloed the 1978 Messner descent route (alongside the Mummery Rib), making three bivouacs on the way up and one on the descent.

The following year he climbed a new route on Distaghil Sar (7,885m), following the northwest ridge.

He then proceeded to pick off the 8,000ers, in 2002 becoming the first Hungarian resident to climb Everest.

However, in 2010 he was involved in a serious avalanche incident. His injuries were so severe his right leg was amputated below the knee

With a prosthetic he returned to the Himalaya in 2011, when he successfully reached the summit of Lhotse with no supplementary oxygen and no Sherpa assistance above base camp.



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