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Steve Curtis, Vancouver businessman, summits Everest, May 2012
Steve Curtis, Vancouver businessman, summits Everest, May 2012

On Everest, climber says after summiting, death is always waiting Add to ...

A Vancouver man who reached the summit of Mount Everest during the same period a Canadian woman and four others died on the mountain doesn’t believe new regulations are needed to prevent more loss of life by adventurers trying to climb the world’s tallest peak.

Steve Curtis, a 31-year-old entrepreneur, said meticulous planning and preparedness was the key to his successful summit on May 19. That same weekend, Shriya Shah-Klorfine of Toronto and four others, including a climber in Mr. Curtis’s group, died on the mountain.

“Everest is a mountain that people die on,” Mr. Curtis said in an interview Sunday. “People should know that and expect it.”

Mr. Curtis said he and his climbing partner, Vancouver real estate agent Sam Wyatt, employed three English-speaking Sherpas between them, had back-up equipment and oxygen and had even sought the help of a personal weather forecaster in addition to the extensive physical training they underwent to prepare for the gruelling climb.

There have been calls for more regulations for climbers trying to scale Everest following the deaths of Ms. Shah-Klorfine and four others. But Mr. Curtis, who was soaking up some sunshine on a Vancouver patio on Sunday afternoon, said people should have the personal freedom to take on Everest.

“People choose to go. It’s about educating people to the risks,” he said.

The 31-year-old, who climbed the mountain in part to raise money for Take a Hike, a charity for at-risk youth, said he saw a number of bodies on his way up and during his descent down the north side of the mountain. Ms. Shah-Klorfine died on the south side of the mountain, which was more crowded with scores of climbers trying to make the ascent during a break in the weather.

A team of Sherpas trying to retrieve her body have had to retreat to the mountain’s base camp to regroup for what is expected to be their last chance of the season.

Mr. Curtis, who runs a consumer products company and describes himself as “an aspiring Richard Branson,” said the risk of dying and being left on the mountain is one that all climbers must accept.

“I do think that as a last place of rest, I wouldn’t mind my body being there,” he said.

The Sherpas were able to reach the body of Ms. Shah-Klorfine, which was lying at about 8,300 metres, and brought it down about 500 metres on Saturday. But one Sherpa suffered a fall and the weather turned against them.

The team left the body there and went down to Camp 3 to sleep. In the face of continuing bad weather, expedition manager Ganesh Thakuri said Sunday, they went back to base camp.

Mr. Thakuri said he is trying to arrange for another three Sherpas from among those at base camp, but all are exhausted from a season of climbing. It would take too long to get fresh people up to the base camp.

Mr. Thakuri hopes a full team will be assembled by Monday for a final effort at retrieval, but they are racing against time. In late May, rising temperatures and thawing ice force the removal of equipment that helps climbers get past the dangerous Khumbu Icefall.

“Within four days all the ropes on the route will be removed,” Mr. Thakuri said from Nepal. “In this case we will not be able to send our people.”

He said that it would take two days to get back up to the body and another day to bring it down, weather permitting. This leaves them a very narrow window to start a final attempt.

“Definitely by tomorrow,” Mr. Thakuri said. “Tomorrow at the latest.”

If they can’t go, Ms. Shah-Klorfine’s body will remain on the exposed mountain until October, when the next climbing season starts.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine grew up in Everest’s shadow in Kathmandu, before moving to Mumbai with her parents and then to Toronto with her husband. She had dreamed of scaling the mountain since she was 9.

For the past two years, Ms. Shah-Klorfine had been walking and running 19 kilometres a day with 20 kilograms strapped to her back to prepare for the climb. She and her husband put off having children so she could climb the mountain, and remortgaged their house to raise about $100,000 for the trek.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine’s husband, Bruce Klorfine, said in an e-mail he will be in Nepal on Monday.

“I hope [the Sherpas]will be successful, but especially wish for them to return safely,” he wrote Saturday morning.

If his wife’s body is recovered, he said a funeral service will be held in Nepal, where she has family.

Darren Klorfine, Ms. Shah-Klorfine’s brother-in-law, said that although the body is now in a more retrievable spot, he’s worried the Sherpas won’t able to go back for it in time. “I think my brother will have a lot more peace once this is all settled and over with,” he said.

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