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Spaniard dies climbing Annapurna in Nepal

By Joanna Jolly
BBC News, Kathmandu

Tolo Calafat
Tolo Calafat was an accomplished mountaineer (Pic: Bestard Mountain Boots)

A Spanish climber who suffered from a severe form of altitude sickness known as cerebral oedema, has died in Nepal, his team members say.

They say that Tolo Calafat died after succumbing to exhaustion and altitude sickness after spending two nights in the open on the 7,600m Annapurna peak.

Mr Calafat's team member, Carolina Pueyo, said that the last radio contact with him was on Wednesday.

"There was only a thread of life in Tolo's voice," she said.

"They sent a Sherpa carrying medicines, oxygen and a sleeping bag. The Sherpa climbed and searched for 11 hours, he couldn't find the stranded climber."

Criticism

Mr Calafat's trekking company, Thamserku Trekking, say they also attempted a rescue by helicopter on Wednesday, but that bad weather and heavy snow hampered the search.

"After three to four hours roaming over the mountain above 7,000m we couldn't find him," said Thamserku Trekking manager Anjan Rai.

Tolo Calafat
Contact with Mr Calafat was lost prior to his death (Pic: Bestard Mountain Boots)

Another helicopter was deployed on Thursday morning, manned by a specialised rescue team from Switzerland. However this too failed to find the climber.

Spanish newspapers are reporting that one of Calafat's radio messages was a plea to be rescued.

"For my children's sake, come and get me down from here," he is reported as saying.

There has been some criticism that his team members, who are now back at Annapurna base camp, should have done more to help.

"The other climbers in his team could have brought him down lower where he could have been rescued more easily," said Anjan Rai from Thamserku Trekking.

There are also questions over whether the Korean climbing team led by Oh Eun Sun could have offered help.

Oh, who earlier this week claimed the title of the first woman to scale the world's 14 highest peaks, was descending the mountain when Mr Calafat became ill.

According to South Korean media, she and her Sherpas tried to help rescue the climber, though this has been disputed by one of Mr Calafat's team.

However, mountaineering experts say that this criticism is unfair.

"When you're coming down a mountain, you only have a little energy and you have to use this to get yourself down," said climbing journalist Elizabeth Hawley.

"Quite often the charge of not helping is not justified. It doesn't take the conditions into consideration."



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