Briton dies in Everest record climb on Everest

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The Independent Online
ACITY TRADER who had just become the youngest Briton to reach the summit of Mount Everest is missing, presumed dead, after disappearing on the way down.

Michael Matthews, 22, an experienced climber, lost contact with the rest of his team as bad weather closed in near the top of the mountain. His companions made it back to base camp safely.

Mr Matthews' father, David, speaking from his home on the island of St Barts, in the French West Indies, said his son was a confident and experienced climber but that there was no chance he could have survived the appalling weather and low oxygen.

"Michael was last seen by his climbing colleague about 600-700ft below the south summit descending in poor weather," he said. "An atrocious gale blew in and he became detached from his colleagues. His oxygen would have run out within a couple of hours of him becoming detached."

Michael reached the summit of Everest at about midday last Thursday and spent 20 minutes there before starting the climb down, his father said. "He set off back down in plenty of time, but the weather closed in savagely, as it can do there."

He said his son had climbed mountains all over the world but was not driven by ambition. Mr Matthews said: "He was the youngest Briton to have reached the summit of Everest but that was not his ambition. He just loved to climb.

"Michael was a very enthusiastic and gifted mountaineer and to be going to Everest at his age shows that, but he was not doing it for others. He was doing it for himself and his family. His mother and I were very proud to have had him as our son."

Michael had been in Nepal since March preparing for the climb. He was with a team of 10 other climbers and 25 Sherpas. The trip was organised by the Sheffield-based tour group OTT Expeditions, which has been operating guided mountaineering expeditions to some of the highest mountains in the world for the past 10 years. It has run three successful trips to Everest and guided 29 people to the summit. No one was available for comment at the company yesterday.

Michael, who had already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, had trained for the altitude of Everest by climbing Mount Aconcagua in Argentina last January, with his father.

Michael grew up in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and attended Uppingham School, in Leicestershire, where he first developed his passion for climbing. His parents moved to the West Indies a few years ago with his younger brother Spencer, 10, and Michael settled in Fulham, west London, with his elder brother James, 23. Both men worked as options traders at Nordic and had desks next to each other. James was flying to St Barts yesterday to be with his family.

Mr Matthews said yesterday that he hoped his son's body could be recovered and returned to England to be buried. "James and I are working closely with OTT, who are good people, and are assessing the possibility of making an attempt to locate Michael's body and bring him down.

"It has never been done before at that height, but we are doing a detailed assessment on whether it would be possible with modern equipment and with the good people who are there. However, we don't want to place anybody else at risk."

The climbing season is due to end in two weeks and the monsoon season will start, which will make recovery of the body extremely difficult.

Jamie Everett, who accompanied Michael to the summit of concagua, said he was a talented climber. Mr Everett, who had known him for three years, travelled to Nepal with Michael for the Everest expedition but had to return home after being taken ill.

He said: "He was a very talented climber but it wasn't the all-consuming part of his life. He would have been good at anything he tried to do; he was just a very talented guy."

n A man and a woman died on Saturday in a 600-foot plunge on a Scottish mountain. Police said Donald Fraser, 32, from Inverness, and Carol Ann Murdoch, 25, from Forres, Highland, were among a party of four climbing An Teallach near Dundonnell, north-west Scotland, when they slipped on wet grass and fell.

Summit

Statistics

n The first official ascent of Everest was in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing. Since then, the mountain has claimed 147 lives.

n The youngest person to reach the summit was 16-year-old Shambu Tamang, from Nepal, in May 1973.

n The quickest ascent was by an Italian, Hans Kammerlander, who made it from base camp in 16 hours and 45 minutes.

n The first married couple to reach the summit together were Andrej and Marija Stremfelj, from Slovenia, in 1990.

n Since 1953, more than 1,050 people have stood on the summit.

n The busiest year was 1993, when 129 reached the top, although eight others died attempting it.

n Everest is not the most technically difficult climb in the Himalayas, but the risks include winds of up to 125mph, temperatures of minus 40C, oxygen deprivation, rockfalls, avalanches,and storms.

n The summit is 8,848 metres (29,028ft) high.

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