Luis Stitzinger Found Dead on Kangchenjunga

Today, a sherpa team on Kangchenjunga found the lifeless body of Luis Stitzinger, missing after he summited on May 25.

Kangchenjunga was Stitzinger’s 10th 8,000’er. He used no supplementary oxygen and climbed with his skis strapped to his backpack. His plan was to make the first full ski descent of Kangchenjunga.

Stitzinger was the last person to summit that day. He had arranged for Flor Cuenca of Peru (who had summited ahead of him, also without oxygen) to wait for him in Camp 4. It was the last time anyone spoke to him.

figure in blue carrying gear and skis up snowy mountain

Luis Stitzinger carries his gear and skis up Kangchenjunga. Photo: Flor Cuenca


Flor Cuenca’s recount

Five days later, a broken-hearted Cuenca arrived back to Kathmandu, to hear about the sad outcome of the search operation.

“This is terrible news,” she said. “We were both climbing on our own, so we joined forces for the summit push, sharing the tent and cooking fuel.”

They also shared a common language, German, since Cuenca lives and works in Germany.

Cuenta recalls that Stitzinger was moving slowly. The going was tough. Eventually, Cuenca went ahead and climbed in front, faster. She summited quite late in the day.

“I crossed paths with Luis as I was on my way back from the top and he was still going up,” she said. “He gave me instructions to wait for him at Camp 4 and keep in touch on the radio. I thought it was a good idea because I was very tired, it was late and I didn’t want to go any further down than Camp 4.”

All the other summiters that day continued down to Camp 3 for the night.

close sot of Cuenca's face holding a Peruvian flag.

Flor Cuenca of Peru summited Kangchenjunga at noon, ahead of Luis Stitzinger. Photo: Flor Cuenca


“We were in contact on the radio, so Luis reported his progress,” said Cuenca. “Eventually, he said he was back at the couloir, from which the descent would be easier. He told me I would be able to see his headlamp soon. But it got foggy, snowy, and windy, and although I peered out of the tent, I could see nothing.

“It was extremely cold. I left my headlamp on, tied to the outside of the tent so he could see the camp. I waited but eventually fell asleep. That was all, I never heard from him again.”

When Cuenca woke up and Stitzinger was not there, she waited until first light at 5:30 am, then sent the SOS. She heard that a helicopter and rescue team were on their way from Kathmandu.

“I thought great, help is coming, so I went down,” she said. “I was very tired and cold, and had run out of fuel the previous day.”

Close shot of Flor with bandana on her head and sunglases. Kangchenjunga in background

Flor Cuenca on Kangchenjunga. Photo: Courtesy of Flor Cuenca


Cuenca said that she descended to Camp 3 and then Camp 2, carrying her gear and Stitzinger’s. The helicopter was nowhere to be seen, and she was worried.

“I asked again from Camp 2, and they told me I should hurry up to return to Base Camp because the weather was changing for the worse.”

On Instagram, the Peruvian climber noted bitterly, “No one moved a finger to help Luis.”

Stitzinger climbed with Seven Summit Treks, but the outfitter has not shared details on the rescue.

For unclear reasons, the helicopter never came that day. Mountain blogger Stefan Nestler reported that the helicopter was to take off on May 28, but bad weather grounded it. The helicopter and the five rescuers reached the mountain a day later, on May 29. Today, they reportedly found Stitzinger at 8,400m.

Selfie showing Stitzinger's face with a helmet, and a wooden cross behind, with an edelweiss flower at its middle.

Stitzinger at a summit cross in the Otztahler Alps. Photo: Luis Stitzinger/Facebook

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.