An Australian climber has died on Everest in the 10th fatality on the world’s highest peak this climbing season.
Jason Bernard Kennison, 40, who survived a bad car crash in 2006, died after becoming unwell on Friday, Asian Trekking said.
The South Australian, who had been living in Perth, became “unresponsive” at the summit and was brought down to the Balcony area below the peak, Asian Trekking chief Dawa Steven Sherpa told AFP.
“Since the oxygen cylinders that they had with them were running out, they decided to descend to Camp 4 hoping to climb back again with oxygen cylinders to rescue him,” Sherpa said.
“It was high wind and bad weather that prevented them (from) going back to bring him down. He died at the Balcony area.”
Mr Kennison had to learn to walk again following the car crash in 2006, and endured a lengthy recovery that saw him battle depression for a year before he began to regain some function in his arms and legs.
Years later he suffered further spinal nerve damage but remained committed to completing the climb to raise money for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.
“After having to learn to walk again after a spinal cord injury, I will be attempting to ascent to Mount Everest base camp to raise funds for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia. Please support me by making a donation to this great cause,” he wrote on his Just Giving fundraising page.
Mr Kennison detailed his belief that after the crash, his career as a as a heavy vehicle mechanic was over and that he would be unlikely to walk or use his arms normally again.
When he eventually became capable of being able to work, he said it was “like the icing on the cake” and went on to work on mine sites in South Australia and Queensland and began coaching in Kyrgyzstan (4500m, – 40 degrees) and Laos.
After being struck down for a second time by a spinal cord injury he said he had been forced to call on “the same mindset and resilience that I had adopted in the past”.
A major turning point was the gift of a surfboard from a friend which he said was “not only a symbol of confidence, trust, love and support but also a symbol of defiance and inspiration”.
He explained that while his injuries and their respective recoveries had been traumatic, he was grateful they instilled an ability in him to “make the most of my life” and help others.
Climber remembered by loved ones
Family of the late climber shared their grief online following the death of Mr Kennisonm who they described “the most courageous, adventurous human we knew”.
“It is with absolute broken hearts that our dearly beloved brother, son, cousin, friend sadly passed away on Friday 19th climbing Mt Everest,” a post to Facebook read.
“He achieved his goal of reaching the peak … he stood on top of the world but sadly didn’t come home. He was the most courageous, adventurous human we knew and he will be forever missed. We love you so much.”
A friend of Mr Kennison said she had never seen him happier than he was while pursuing his dream to climb Mout Everest.
“At 40 years old, he was the happiest I have ever seen him ‘Climbing the Mountain’ and he made it to the top of Mount Everest. His dream!” she wrote.
“But he didn’t make it back. He was one day into the journey down the mountain and sadly passed.”
Another of his friends shared a sweet text exchange from before the climb began. The friend had sent encouraging messages of support including his eagerness to see footage of him at the mountain peak.
“Thanks mate. It’s been a rough and tough year of prep, let alone few weeks here with rotations, so now comes the final run when and if the weather allows,” Mr Kennison replied.
In his final message, sent on May 4, he told his friend he hoped to reach the peak within the next month.
“Within the next four weeks hopefully mate,” he wrote, along with several praying hand emojis.
Mr Kennison’s brother, Mark, shared a photo of his late sibling with the caption, “Until we meet again bro!!” with a broken heart emoji.
Mr Kennison’s death is the sixth among non-Nepalis while four Sherpas have lost their lives on Everest in this year’s climbing season.
On average, five climbers die every spring climbing season on Everest. But in 2019, 11 people died, with four of the deaths blamed on overcrowding on the mountain.
Mr Kennison spent years learning to walk again after the road accident left him with multiple injuries including to his spinal cord.
Nearly 450 climbers have already climbed Mount Everest this season, according to Nepal’s tourism department.
It has issued 478 permits to foreign climbers this year, with each paying an $11,000 fee.
Since most will need a guide, more than 900 people — a record — were expected to try to summit during the season, which runs until early June.