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2 climbers die on Mount Everest, 3 still missing on world's highest mountain: "It is a sad day"

Climber describes scene in Everest death zone
Climber describes scene in Everest's "death zone" : Traffic jams and corpses 02:41

A Kenyan and a Nepali climber have died close to Mount Everest's summit, tourism officials said Thursday, taking this season's toll on the world's highest mountain to at least four. Three mountaineers, including the Kenyan climber's guide, are now missing.

Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui, 40, and his Nepali guide Nawang Sherpa, 44, went out of contact Wednesday morning and a search team was deployed on the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) high mountain.

"The team have found the Kenyan climber dead between the summit and the Hillary Step, but his guide is still missing," Khim Lal Gautam, chief of the tourism department's field office at the base camp, told AFP.

The climb by Kirui, a 40-year-old banker at Kenya Commercial Bank, had been closely followed in Kenya, and fellow climber James Muhia had posted frequent updates about the attempt online.

"It is a sad day," Muhia wrote Thursday on X. "Our brother is now one with the mountain. It will be a difficult time. Go well my brother."

Kenyan foreign ministry secretary, Korir Sing'oei, said he had met with Kirui before his trip to Nepal, and described him as fearless and audacious.

"Really gutted by this news," Sing'oei wrote on social media. "I have been following his exploits until this unfortunate end. He is a fearless, audacious spirit, and represents the indomitable will of many Kenyans. We shall miss him."

Another Nepali climber, Binod Babu Bastakoti, 37, died at about 8,200 meters (26,902 feet) on Wednesday, a statement from the tourism department said.

Search parties are also still looking for a 40-year-old British climber and his Nepali guide who went missing Tuesday morning after a snow mass collapsed as they descended from Everest's peak.

A Romanian climber died in his tent on Monday during a bid to scale Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world.

Everest and Lhotse share the same route until diverting at around 7,200 meters.

Two Mongolian climbers went missing this month after reaching Everest's summit and were later found dead.

Two more climbers, one French and one Nepali, have died this season on Makalu, the world's fifth-highest peak.

Last year was deadliest season on Everest

Nepal has issued more than 900 permits for its mountains this year, including 419 for Everest, earning more than $5 million in royalties.

More than 500 climbers and their guides have already reached the summit of Everest after a rope-fixing team reached the peak last month.

This photo taken on April 27, 2019 shows an aerial view of Mount Everest (center right) taken during a flight from Nepal to Bhutan.  Sarah Lai / AFP/Getty Images

China also reopened the Tibetan route to foreigners this year for the first time since closing it in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nepal is home to eight of the world's 10 highest peaks and welcomes hundreds of adventurers each spring, when temperatures are warm and winds typically calm.

More than 600 climbers made it to the summit of Everest last year but it was also the deadliest season on the mountain, with 18 fatalities.

Thursday's grim news came on the same day that Nepali climber Phunjo Lama reached Everest's summit in 14 hours and 31 minutes, smashing the record for the world's fastest ascent of the mountain by a woman. Climbers usually take days to reach the top of the 29,032-foot mountain, spending nights on its different camps to rest and acclimatize.

Only a day before Lama set her record, another Nepali climber, the renowned Sherpa mountain guide Kami Rita, reached Everest's summit for a record 30th time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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