by Ema O’Connor
Japanese mountaineer Nobukazu Kuriki, 33, neared Mount Everest’s summit Saturday. This is his fifth attempt to reach Mount Everest’s highest peak in the past six years. He has been forced to turn back four times with the summit in sight due to dangerous conditions.
He is the first person to attempt the climb since Nepal’s catastrophic earthquake in April, which killed 9,000 people in Nepal, and 18 people at Everest’s base camp.
“I am climbing the mountain to stand by Nepal during this difficult time, and to spread the message that it is safe for tourism,” Kuriki told reporters when he first arrived in Nepal in July to acclimate before his climb.
He told Reuters that he felt nervous and afraid upon arriving in Nepal, but that this was “only natural before attempting the challenge of climbing Everest, particularly after the earthquake and at this time of year.
In 2012, Kuriki lost nine fingers after spending two days in a hole he dug in the snow at 27,000 feet in temperatures lower than -4F.
Kuriki will rest at the South Col for around eight hours before taking off on the last leg of the journey, the BBC reported. Taking on the final stretch overnight is a common tactic, president of the Nepalese Mountaineering Association Ang Tsering said. It allows them to descend the mountain in daylight, he said, and lower temperatures at night mean fewer winds.
The mountaineer originally planned to climb Everest beginning in Tibet, but China closed all mountains to expeditions for the fall season. Kuriki is the only person scheduled to climb Everest during the fall, a season known to be particularly dangerous for climbing expeditions.
Just 33% of climbers scale Mt. Everest successfully in the fall months, according to the Himalayan Database, compared to 66% in spring. Over the past 15 years only three expeditions have reached the summit successfully in the fall.
Mount Everest is known as the most dangerous mountain to climb in the world. There have been over 250 recorded casualties of the climb.
Kuriki has said in past interviews he prefers to climb alone, with minimal gear, and most of all, in the winter. “This is the purest form of climbing and it is worth the extra danger,” he said.