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Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK


British climber dies on Mt Kenya

Altitude sickness has claimed the life of a British climber attempting to reach the summit of Kenya's highest mountain.

Frances Katherine Ayres, 34, of Leicester, had reached the 13,000ft point on Mount Kenya with her boyfriend and a guide when she collapsed.

She lay stranded on the mountainside for several hours before she died of what is believed to be a heart condition last Friday.

The snow-capped mountain, the second highest in Africa, has a sinister reputation among climbers.

Experts say that many among the hordes who attempt the climb each year are fooled by a relatively easy ascent to the point where they begin to feel unwell.

Most people who turn back after feeling unwell are able to recover, but the limited facilities in the area meant Ms Ayres chances of rescue were slim after she collapsed with the summit less than 3,000ft away.

'She was overcome'

Her boyfriend, believed to be called Ian Pall, managed to make contact with the nearest town, Nanyuki, from where Ms Ayres' family were told of the accident.

A British Army base in Nanyuki was able to scramble a helicopter to bring the party down from the mountain.

Rufus Drabble, from the British High Commission in Nairobi, said: "She was climbing the country's highest mountain - Mount Kenya - with two others when she was overcome by altitude sickness which brought on heart trouble.

"Her family have been informed and arrangements are being made to fly her body back home which will happen after the post mortem has been completed."

One of the worst

Altitude or mountain sickness is thought to be caused by low atmospheric pressure and a lack of oxygen which can lead to hyperventilation.

Sufferers may feel nausea, anxiety and exhaustion, and the symptoms may affect the central nervous system and lungs, and place extreme strain on the heart.

Andy MacNae, of the British Mountaineering Council, said despite widespread advice, people were often caught out by the mountain's dangers.

"Mount Kenya has one of the worst records for people being caught out by altitude sickness of any mountain in the world.

"You can get up there quite quickly, but people are overcome before they know it, and that's when they really are in trouble."

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