KATHMANDU, Nepal, Sept. 26 (UPI) — A Japanese climber who lost nine fingers to frostbite is positioned to become the first person to reach the Mount Everest summit this year, nearly five months after thousands were killed in an earthquake and avalanche on the world’s highest mountain.
Saturday, Nobukazu Kuriki, 33, reportedly reached the South Col on Everest, known as the death zone due to the risk of fatal altitude sickness. He plans to rest for about eight hours and make his final push to the summit for his “dream climb.”
This is the fourth time he’s taken on Everest, each time abandoning his trek with the summit in view. In 2012, he lost nine of his fingers to frostbite in an attempt to scale the seldom-climbed West Ridge. He said he prefers to make his dangerous climbs alone and with minimal gear.
“This is the purest form of climbing and it is worth the extra danger,” he said.
The Nepal Ministry of Tourism and Aviation is celebrating Kuriki’s attempt as the country struggles to prove to the world Everest is safe to climb. In April, more than 9,000 were killed in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the country and triggered a massive avalanche that left at least 20 Everest climbers dead.
“I am climbing the mountain to stand by Nepal during this difficult time, and to spread the message that it is safe for tourism,” he said.