Last Photo: Fellow Climber Captures Final Glimpse of Suhajda Szilard’s Everest Journey

Ben Ferrer, a member of the Seven Summit Climbs team, was returning from the summit of Everest at 7:30 am on May 24 when he met a climber sitting at the Balcony. It was Suhajda Szilard of Hungary, who was climbing on his own, without oxygen. Ferrer snapped a photo but he never imagined that it would be the last visual record we have of Szilard. He agreed to share the image as we try to search for details on this tragic climb.

Brief greeting

“He asked the altitude of the Balcony [it’s 8,400m],” Ferrer told ExplorersWeb. “He seemed pretty tired, so I incorrectly assumed he was letting his team know his turnaround point/altitude.”
Zoom of Szilard's picture showing him manipulating some device with bare hands.

Szilard was at the Balcony on Everest when this picture was shot. Photo: Ben Ferrer

“I greeted him briefly (we had chatted in Base Camp), I asked him how he was doing, and he just replied ‘Okay’.”

Ferrer noted that at the time, the weather was sunny and windless.

“The conditions for summiting were probably the best of the season that day, with warm temperatures, few people on the mountain, and no clouds or wind,” he said.

Eventually, Szilard stood up and continued. Six hours later, he crossed paths with Elia Saikaly. Szilard was above the Balcony but not much further up.

“I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t respond,” said Saikaly. “He just kept going up. Very slowly but steadily upwards. A determined man, cut from a different cloth.”

Sadly, his determination cost him his life. Suhajda Szilard collapsed at the Hillary Step, very close to the summit. His satellite device gave a signal from 8,795m (the Hillary Step altitude) late in the night. The following morning, an Imagine Nepal team saw him, slightly off the fixed ropes and still showing signs of life, but in a very serious state.

The team’s sherpas were helping down a client and couldn’t provide further help. It is unknown if someone else saw the climber that day. The rescue team of Gelje Sherpa and Mikel Sherpa started up toward him later that day. But by the time they reached the Hillary Step on May 26, the climber was not there.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering 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.