Hungarian mountaineers Zsolt Erõss and Péter Kiss were reported missing on Wednesday after failing to return to their base camp 7,600 metres up Mount Kanchenjunga on the border of Nepal and India. The climbers had reached the 8,586-metre peak of the world’s third-highest mountain two days earlier.
Fellow team member Júlia Nedeczky told Inforádió that the 24-hour scaling of the peak must have sapped their strength. Erõss, 45, is Hungary’s most famous mountaineer. He lost his right leg in January 2010 after sustaining an open fracture while climbing in Slovakia’s High Tatra mountains.
Expedition spokesman Szabolcs Vincze spoke on Tuesday morning of the near certainty that Erõss and his 26-year-old companion had spent Monday night out in the open at 8,300m in temperatures as low as -38 Celsius.
The two were reported to have been separated while trying to return to base camp IV on Tuesday morning, with Kiss apparently falling down a steep slope. The support team lost contact with the climbers when they were at an altitude of 8,000 metres.
A rescue crew looking for them found no sign and had given up the search by Wednesday. Meanwhile help was needed elsewhere as an avalanche swept away a lower camp, killing a South Korean and a Bangladeshi climber.
By Thursday morning they must have spent three nights in the “death zone” above 8000 metres, without a tent or access to drinking water. “Practically there is no hope for the two Hungarians to still be alive,” said Vincze.
Death certificates are typically issued soon after a mountaineer disappears in Nepal, as experience has shown there is almost no chance they will ever return alive. Erõss’ wife Hilda Sterczer was under no illusions as to her husband’s fate, according to an interview that appeared in the tabloid Blikk on Thursday. “I know there’s no hope, I know he’s dead,” she reportedly said.
If so he leaves behind not only a wife but one-year-old and four-year-old children.