Japan finger frostbite victim exposes Nepali desperation to revive Everest climbs

Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:13am EDT
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By Andrew MacAskill and Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A Japanese man has become the unlikely face of Nepal's desperate efforts to revive its climbing industry, seeking to conquer Everest alone for the first time since 18 people were killed in April - and since he lost all his fingertips to frostbite.

Nobukazu Kuriki, 33, set off on his adventure on Tuesday, leaving Kathmandu for the mountains for acclimatization before tackling Everest next month, the first person to do so since multiple avalanches unleashed by an earthquake slammed into Base Camp in the mountain's worst climbing disaster.

Kuriki, despite his obvious disadvantages, will be the only person attempting to reach the world's tallest peak in the challenging autumn climbing season. He scales cliffs without fellow climbers, bottled oxygen or even a rope, meaning his journey will entail far greater risk.

"I do feel nervous and afraid," said Kuriki, who lost the tips of his fingers and one thumb three years ago. "This is only natural before attempting the challenge of climbing Everest, particularly after the earthquake and at this time of year."

Four months after almost 9,000 people died in Nepal's worst earthquake disaster, followed in May by a second strong tremor, Nepal's government has latched on to Kuriki to promote a tourist revival in the poor Himalayan nation.

The Tourism Ministry paraded the climber before reporters at the weekend.

"Kuriki is climbing at a time when there is confusion in the world about the safety in Nepal after the earthquake," minister Kripasur Sherpa said. "This will be an example for other visitors to come."

But other mountaineers said he was taking too big a gamble.   Continued...

Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki speaks during an interview in Kathmandu in this August 22, 2015 file photo.  REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar/Files