'Fearless' Kenyan climber dies on Everest, Sherpa missing

A drone view shows Mount Everest along with Khumbu Glacier and base camp in Nepal

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) -A Kenyan climber has died on Mount Everest, officials said on Thursday, taking the season's confirmed death toll on the world's tallest mountain to three.

Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui, 40, and his 44-year-old Sherpa guide, Nawang, had been missing above the Hillary Step since Wednesday morning.

Sherpa rescuers recovered Kirui's body late on Wednesday at about 19 metres (62 feet) below the 8,849-metre peak, Nepal’s Department of Tourism said. Nawang was still missing, it said.

"It is not clear whether they went missing before reaching the peak or after climbing," Khim Lal Gautam, who heads the Expedition Monitoring and Facilitation Field Office at the base camp, told Reuters.

Korir Sing'oei, Kenya's principal secretary for foreign affairs, said he was devastated by the death of his friend, a banker with KCB Group.

"I have been following his exploits until this unfortunate end. He is a fearless, audacious spirit, and represents the indomitable will of many Kenyans. We shall miss him," Sing'oei wrote on the social media platform X.

Kirui was attempting to reach the summit without supplemental oxygen, the climber wrote in his final post on Instagram.

"A no-oxygen attempt comes with its special preparations and risks, physically my body is ready," he wrote from Everest base camp six days ago.

KCB Group CEO Paul Russo described Kirui as a "true Kenyan hero".

"Mr Kirui was a rare professional banker who, over the years, literally carried Kenya's and Africa's flag to global heights in his mountaineering quest. He remains an icon and an inspiration to many," he said.

Two Mongolian climbers died last week while descending from the summit. A British man and a Sherpa have been missing since Tuesday when they slipped and fell near the South Summit.

About 7,000 climbers have scaled the peak – many more than once - since it was first climbed by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, hiking officials say. They say more than 335 climbers have died.

Mountain climbing is a key source of tourism revenue and employment in Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma, additional reporting by Hereward Holland in Nairobi; Editing by Nick Macfie and George Obulutsa)