Wilson Kenduiywo
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Cheruiyot Kirui's mother: 'Whenever I would dream he was in danger, I knew he was climbing a mountain'

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Wilson Kenduiywo and Ruth Kenduiywo, parents of Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui (inset), who was found dead on Mt Everest in Nepal, after a hiking adventure turned fatal at their home in Chepterit, Chesumei Constituency of Nandi County on May 23, 2024.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Every time Kenyan mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui went mountaineering, his mother Ruth Kenduiywo prayed, always fearing for her son's life.

Kirui, a mountaineering enthusiast, was found dead on Thursday at an altitude of 8,800 metres, some 48 metres from the summit of the world's highest mountain, Everest.

"I always prayed for him. I would dream that he was in danger... I'd realise that he was climbing a mountain when I was in that state. He didn't want to tell me (when he was going to do a mountain challenge) because he knew I would be worried," she told Nation in an interview.

She fondly remembers that Kirui’s love for heights began with climbing trees at a young age.

"He used to climb trees all the way to the top... it was so scary that I would even run away to avoid witnessing something bad. One time I was cleaning his room and found a heavy bag weighing about 10 kilos. I later learned that he used it to lift weights and build strength. That told me that my son was going to be an extraordinary man," she said, adding that he also participated in several marathons as an adult.

Kenyan hiker Cheruiyot Kirui posted this photo in his trekking update he posted on Instagram page on April 27, 2024. He was found dead on May 23, 2024. 

Photo credit: Cheruiyot Kirui | Instagram

Ms Kenduiywo described her 40-year-old as a hardworking man who took care of her.

“My son was a man of few words but hardworking; he was a perfectionist. He wanted the best for himself and his family…I will truly miss him,” she said.

 “He bought land around here. A neighbour recently told me that he would work on the farm all day. That’s my son,” she said with a mix of pride and sadness.

 Kirui died a hero

Kirui’s father, Wilson Kenduiywo, celebrated his son’s life, saying his son had died a hero.

Mr Kenduiywo said they spoke on the phone when he arrived in Nepal.

However, calls were too expensive, prompting his son to ask him to install WhatsApp so they could communicate more.

This was never to be as that would be their last call.

Befitting send-off

“We last talked three weeks ago. We usually get updates from his brother Enock in Nairobi. When he got lost, his brother was contacted and he informed us. We prayed he would be found alive but unfortunately, he died,” said the father.

Mr Kenduiywo says he understands it's expensive to retrieve his son's body from the mountain.

But he added that the family would meet and discuss the way forward because his son deserves a befitting send-off.

“Despite having died far away from his home, we just want to give him a good farewell. He died doing what he loved and we shall be glad to bring him home for final rights. Many were following his journey on social media. He would have made our country proud,” he said.

Business Insider reports that final repatriation costs tens of thousands of dollars (in some cases, around $70,000 (Sh9 million) and can also come at a fatal price itself.

In 1984, two Nepalese climbers died trying to recover a body from Everest in 1984.

An article by Mount Kilimanjaro dated April 15, 2024, titled Retrieving bodies from Mount Everest: The process and cost, states that recovering dead bodies is not as easy as it may sound, it is a long and costly process in itself.

Since 1921 when the first attempt to summit the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest was done, at least 330 climbers have died on the mountain.

It is estimated that at least 200 bodies still lie on Mt Everest, uncollected or unfound.

Kirui went to Maseno University where he undertook a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science, graduating in 2007 with First Class Honours.

Bringing the body down is a risky and costly affair, depending on a number of factors, according to one of the late Kirui's close hiking friends, Limo Kipkemoi.

Photo credit: Cheruiyot Kirui Instagram

He would have gone on to do a Master’s degree, but his family did not have the resources at the time, so he sought employment instead.

He landed a job at the Kenya Commercial Bank, where he rose to become a Senior Relationship Manager in the Mortgage division.

For Kirui, it seems, the love for the mountains and the thrill of mountaineering started with a need to lose weight.

Part of Kirui’s training for the Everest challenge included summiting Mt Manaslu in Nepal, which is the eighth highest mountain in the world standing at 8,163 metres.

His friend and fellow mountain hiker Limo Kipkemoi says the news of Kirui’s death has come as a shocker.

Sh7 million budget

“I honestly didn’t expect he would die because the magnitude of his preparedness for this challenge was on a scale I hadn’t seen before, for the many years I have known him. He was working with a budget of Sh7 million, he had everything right that was needed from his gear to his diet and even the training,” Kipkemoi avers.

 Kirui had been in over 50 mountain challenges including, 20 ascents of Africa’s second-highest mountain- Mt Kenya at 5,199 m, setting course records on the three main routes with the most outstanding one being the Sirimon route, which took him two hours, and 56 minutes.

Kirui also did exploits in the continent’s largest mountain, Kilimanjaro, as well as Rwenzori Mt Stanley in eastern equatorial Africa, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 5,109 m, which took him over six days.

Late Cheruiyot Kirui had elaborate plans for his daring expedition, which he shared with his fans on social media.

Photo credit: Cheruiyot Kirui Instagram

The mountain climbing enthusiast participated in the Beskidy Ultra Trail, Poland (96km, 4,900m elevation) in September 2017 before competing at the Tor des Geants (Tour of the Giants) in the Italian Alps (356km, 27,000m elevation) in September 2019, narrated in his book - Completed the No Business 100 in the USA (166km, 3,900m elevation) in 2018.

In October 2021, he participated in the Cappadocia Ultra Trail, Turkey (121km, 3,600m elevation) and was second position in the Ultra Trail Chiang Mai, Thailand (160km, 6,100m elevation) in August 2022.