One of Ireland’s most successful mountaineers has died while climbing on the world’s 10th-highest peak in Nepal.
Noel Hanna (56), a 10-time Everest summiteer from Co Down, was found dead inside his tent at Camp IV of Annapurna on Monday after scaling the 26,545ft mountain without supplemental oxygen, officials said. Camp IV is the final camp before the summit.
The fatality was confirmed after two Indian mountaineers went missing and lost radio contact. Record-holding Indian woman climber Baljeet Kaur went missing near Camp IV while descending from the summit point, expedition organisers said. She was later rescued at 24,156ft, airlifted to base camp and then flown to a hospital in Kathmandu, where she was reported to be in stable condition, officials said.
The other climber, Anurag Maloo, was still missing, officials added. The search for him was expected to resume Wednesday.
Annapurna is in the Annapurna mountain range of Gandaki Province, north-central Nepal.
On Tuesday, Mingma Sherpa, chairman at Seven Summit Treks, reported Mr Hanna “breathed his last in Camp IV last night”. Mr Hanna’s body has now been recovered from the mountain and brought back by helicopter to Kathmandu. It is expected that a post mortem will be carried out there.
Irish mountaineer Pat Falvey said he learned with “great sadness and shock” of Mr Hanna’s death.
Extending his sympathy to Mr Hanna’s wife Lynne and his family, Mr Falvey said: “Unfortunately it’s the game we play. It’s not called the death zone for nothing. By the law of averages, the mountains do take a life back. He was doing what he loved and he knew this. We have lost one of the best.”
Speaking on RTÉ Radio about the strain on the body from climbing the 8,091m mountain, Mr Falvey said a normal oxygen saturation level would be 100 per cent but in the dead zone “it’s down to 60 per cent. So every single muscle of your body is screaming for oxygen. And it’s the same on your heart and your lungs. And as we get older, we’re not as good at doing that.”
He added: “I remember talking to Noel only a couple of years ago. I turned my climbing profession into polar exploration and I was saying, like, would you not think of doing that? But he loved it, you know, the mountains were his cathedrals.”
Mr Hanna, a former bodyguard, scaled the summit of Annapurna last Wednesday, but news of his success only filtered through on Sunday due to safety concerns.
A renowned adventurer, he scaled summits and competed in sports adventures worldwide. He and his wife successfully summited Mount Everest in 2009 and 2016 from both sides. The couple travelled back and forth from their home in Canada to Nepal frequently.
Mr Hanna became the first Irish person to successfully summit and descend K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, on July 21st, 2018. He also helped others to scale some of the world’s most difficult mountains.
In February 2019, Mr Hanna accompanied the youngest person to climb the highest volcano in North America — Pico De Orizabo (5,636m) in Mexico — when he summited with 12-year-old-American Decatur Boland and his father, Daniel.
In the same year, he accompanied Sarah Khumalo to the summit of Everest (8,848m) — making her the first black African woman to reach the peak of the world’s highest mountain.
Almost four years ago, Mr Hanna accompanied Séamus Shay Lawless (39) from Bray, Co Wicklow, who died just hours after summiting Everest. Mr Lawless, a professor of artificial intelligence at Trinity College Dublin, fell up to 500m during his descent, in an area known as the balcony.
Mr Lawless did the climb to raise up to €25,000 for the Barretstown Children’s Charity, dedicated to seriously ill children and their families. More than €200,000 was raised to fund an effort to locate Mr Lawless, but the search was eventually called off.