A 64-year-old Australian man hiking in the region of Mount Everest in Nepal has died of what is suspected to be altitude sickness.
Travelling with his niece and a guide, the Australian was returning from the scenic Gokyo Lakes region somewhere between 15,400 and 16,400 feet up, heading for Manche. He fell sick around 21:00 on Sunday 4 January 2015 in Khumjung in the Khotang District.
Ranjit Lama of Himaland Adventure treks, which organised the expedition, affirmed that the man became unconscious while taking a brief rest from walking, of which the guide was made aware.
Local police official, Khagendra Khadka, divulged that the body was transported to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu for a post mortem. Khadka described the probable cause of death as altitude sickness.
The Gokyo region, spotted with lakes and astounding views of Everest, is known to locals as Death Valley because hikers ascend too rapidly on the easy terrain, increasing the prospect of altitude sickness as atmospheric pressure drops rapidly.
In October 2014, 43 hikers, guides and porters were killed in a massive snowstorm on the popular Annapurna circuit.
That same month, 49-year-old Briton, Debra Wilding, died of altitude sickness as she returned from a trek to Everest base camp – she was discovered dead in her hotel room having complained of breathing problems.
In April, hundreds of climbers called off their plans to tackle Everest following an avalanche that killed 16 Nepalese guides in the worst accident ever to occur on the world’s highest mountain.
While the deceased Australian was no spring chicken, young and fit travellers are no more immune to altitude sickness. In 2011, 28-year-old Rachel Burke, a naval worker, died in this manner, again in Gokyo. She had completed a marathon weeks before departing for Nepal.
Altitude sickness continues to be a problem for several reasons: travellers might not see a GP for instructions on how to minimise altitude sickness and recognise and manage its symptoms; the ease of international travel makes higher elevation destinations more accessible; and time is not spent acclimatising as it would expend a most valuable resource in a holiday that’s all-too-short.