Climber Who Refused to Turn Around Dies on Kangchenjunga

Indian climber Narayan Iyer (52) died at approximately 8,200m during yesterday’s massive summit push on Kangchenjunga. He was determined to reach the top, despite feeling ill shortly after leaving Camp 4.

Who is in charge?

“The Sherpa guides told him to turn around repeatedly but he refused to obey and insisted on going up,” said Nivesh Karki, Director of Pioneer Adventures (Iyer’s outfitter).

Soon, Iyer could go no further. “Mingma Dorchi decided to leave two guides with him and proceeded with the rest of the group,” Karki explained. Iyer apparently died from something related to exhaustion. No fall or accident occurred.

Traditionally, the guide’s word is law in the mountains. Most climbing companies and outfitters ask their clients to sign a disclaimer before an expedition. This often includes their acceptance of the expedition leader’s decisions. But then, high on an 8,000m peak, climbers and guides can see things very differently. Mountaineering history is full of stories of guides and clients arguing about decisions that can be the difference between life and death.

Details from the summit push are still rather sketchy. In fact, Iyer’s name was preliminarily listed as a summiter, instead of a casualty. The summit was announced very late in the day (at 4:50 pm Nepal time) by Pioneer Adventure’s Sanu Sherpa. Sanu Sherpa was leading the rope-fixing team and therefore supposedly at the head of the climbing group. However, Shehroze Kashif’s home team announced that the young Pakistani climber had reached the top nearly two hours before, and the waypoints registered on his tracker are not clear.

Summit pictures and reports should trickle in once the climbers return to Base Camp today.

More teams to come

Not everyone is descending. Several climbers are on their way to the summit, including Mingma G’s Imagine Nepal team, which is currently on its way to Camp 4. Other outfitting companies, such as 8K Expeditions, plan to lead climbs up the mountain in the next three weeks.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.