A one-fingered Japanese climber who was attempting the first summit of Mount Everest since this year’s deadly quake said Thursday he had turned back before reaching the summit.
This is the fifth season Nobukazu Kuriki, who lost nine fingers on the mountain in 2012, has tried to scale the world’s highest peak and he is the only climber making the dangerous attempt this year.
Climbers have abandoned Everest after an earthquake-triggered avalanche killed 18 people at the mountain’s base camp, and regular aftershocks since have increased the chance of avalanches.
“Did my best, but figured will not be able to return alive if I go further due to strong wind and heavy snow,” the 33-year-old wrote on his Twitter account.
Kuriki said continuing his attempt to scale the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) colossus in those conditions would leave him dangerously exposed, with not enough time to return safely to camp.
His overnight ascent had taken him well into the “death zone” — the height above 8,000 metres notorious for its difficult terrain and thin air.
“Decided to climb down at around 8,150 metres… I truly appreciate everyone’s support,” he added.
Scaling Everest has been all but abandoned this season following April’s earthquake, which killed nearly 8,900 people and devastated large parts of Nepal, including the capital Kathmandu.
It is the second spring season with virtually no one reaching the summit after an avalanche in 2014 killed 16 Nepali guides and also sparked a shutdown.
Mountaineers usually begin their summit attempts late at night, which allows them to descend in daylight, lowering the risk of them falling to their deaths due to exhaustion.
Mountaineering experts say climbing in autumn is more dangerous than spring due to high winds and lower temperatures.
Kuriki, who planned to summit alone without the aid of bottled oxygen, was forced to abandon a bid last month because deep snow made it difficult for him to climb quickly during the final stretch.
Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for impoverished Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres, but the April 25 earthquake has raised fears for its tourism industry.