Mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui: Sh7m budget, 10-day wait and heartbreaking news

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

What you need to know:

  • Kirui went missing above 8,000 metres on Wednesday.
  • Bringing the body down is a risky and costly affair.

Hiking colleagues of Kenyan mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui, who was found dead on Mt Everest in Nepal have paid tribute to him, even as uncertainty remains over the fate of his body.  

Kirui went missing above 8,000 metres on Wednesday as he attempted to summit Mount Everest.

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.

"The information is still scarce but at least we are happy that the location of his body has been identified. I am in a group with his brother and some of Kirui's friends and the plan is to figure out how to bring his body down," Mr Kipkemoi, who described Kirui as a daredevil, told the Nation.

He says: "Usually there are two facts that determine whether a body comes down or not. One is the cost because it's very expensive to bring the body down. The second is the weather. The weather has to allow it, if it doesn't then the body stays there. These are the options we will be looking at.

Business Insider reports that when people die on Everest, it can be difficult to remove their bodies.

Final repatriation costs tens of thousands of dollars (in some cases around $70,000 (Sh9 million) and can be deadly in itself. In 1984, two Nepalese climbers died trying to recover a body from Everest.

Mr Kipkemoi, himself a mountaineer and ultra runner who has completed more than 50 mountaineering challenges with Kirui, including climbing Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro more than five times, says the news of Kirui's death came as a shock.

"I honestly didn't expect him to die because the level of preparation he had done for this challenge was unlike anything I had seen in the many years I have known him. He worked with a budget of Sh7 million, he had everything right from his equipment to his diet and even his training," said Kipkemoi.

Part of Kirui's training included climbing Nepal's Mount Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world at 8,163 metres.

"Last September, Kirui successfully climbed Mt Manaslu without oxygen, which gave him a good feel for what to expect on Everest. I can confirm that his preparations were top-notch. I guess it is just a matter of destiny," adds Mr Limo.

In March this year, Kirui, who had just turned 40 two months earlier, told a local newspaper that he needed Sh7.5 million to conquer the world's highest mountain.

Mr Kipkemoi says: "He never read my last text wishing him well and reminding him that we only have one life to live. But knowing the kind of man he was, I'm sure he wasn't worried about anything because he was always upbeat.”

When news of Kirui's disappearance broke, Mr Kipkemoi said he contacted the expedition company responsible for the trip.

"I called the expedition company and they told me that the last call they had received was from Kirui's Sherpa guide at base camp, who said that his client didn't look well and had refused to use supplemental oxygen. That was the last communication," says Mr Kipkemoi.

However, Mr Kipkemoi says he doesn't believe that Kirui's refusal to use supplemental oxygen led to his demise on the 8,849-metre peak.

"Not using supplemental oxygen was the challenge. Everest is tough, but there is a group of daredevils who have climbed the mountain without using supplemental oxygen. So we knew he had the ability to do it, he had taken everything he needed. He had an oxygen cylinder with him in case he needed it, but the plan was to summit without supplemental oxygen," Mr Kipkemoi said.

So what could have gone wrong?

"I suspect that along the way he must have developed one of those altitude sicknesses due to the extreme conditions that make you start behaving abnormally. But it is not in Kirui's nature to take such risks by refusing to use supplemental oxygen. But he wasn't one to give up so easily either," he says.

Victor Kamau, another long-time friend of Kirui and also an ultra runner, says he did not expect his friend to die on Mt Everest.

"He was a tough guy, a daredevil, a well-researched guy, he had prepared thoroughly for this challenge, including reading a lot of books about climbing Mt Everest. If anyone was going to come back from the mountain, it had to be Kirui. We don't know exactly what happened but I can tell you that it was not a matter of preparation, something must have happened up there," Mr Kamau told the Nation.

According to Mr Kamau, his friend's level of preparation for the challenge gave everyone around him confidence.

"He had done the 8,163-metre Manaslu and completed it, which I think gave him a good idea of what he needed to do on Everest. When he came back, he made a number of trips to Mt Kenya, especially to practise walking on glaciers and he did a lot of running, so in terms of his physical fitness, he was at the top of his game," says Mr Kamau.

Kirui's attempt to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen was not shocking to Mr Kamau either.

I know he had also read a number of books about climbing Everest, especially about climbing without oxygen. He was definitely ready for it, even before he took on Mt Everest, he had spent 10 days doing nothing, just waiting for the weather to improve," says Mr Kamau.

In a recent interview with a local newspaper, Kirui stated that he knew the risks of attempting to climb Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen and that this was the difference in the challenge as the mountain had been climbed before by others.

His motive was to become the first African to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.

At the time of his death, Kirui had begun writing a book about his mountaineering expedition, which Mr Kamau said would include his experiences on Mt Everest.

"I guess we will never get to read the book he had titled 'Preparation for Everest', but he had actually written another one about his experience in ultra running".

Mr Kamau would like to see his friend's body recovered and buried at home, but he would not bet on it.

"For the family and closure, that would be the best thing to do. But is it practical to do that? I think we will have to wait, because to bring bodies down from Mount Everest, you risk the lives of those who go there to retrieve the body. It's a big risk, (and) the chances are minimal, but for the sake of the family, I hope it will be possible.