Officials: veteran climber Humar dies in Himalayas

AP News
Posted: Nov 14, 2009 1:45 PM

Veteran Slovenian climber Tomaz Humar was found dead in the Himalayas on Saturday, days after he was injured and stranded on a 23,710-foot (7,227-meter) mountain, a mountain rescue company and a close friend said.

Humar, 40, who was married with two children, ascended hundreds of difficult alpine routes around the world, including some of the hardest climbs in the Himalayas.

Viki Groselj, a fellow Slovenian mountaineer and a good friend, described Humar as a "mountaineering genius whose accomplishments have been admired by the whole world."

"Above all, he was a supreme climber who moved the boundaries of possible," Groselj said. "He had an amazing gift and amazing strength."

Slovenian journalist Matija Grah, who has covered Humar's career, said he "climbed the peaks others had avoided."

In 1999, Humar became the first climber ever to go solo up the southern face of the French peak Daulaghiri. He also tackled the 6,828-meter (22,402-foot) Ama Dablam in 1996, for which he was awarded a French mountaineering award.

Journalist Silvo Tersek said Humar believed in a "metaphysical contact" with the mountains that was far greater than the fear of the dangers he faced.

Mountain climbing is popular in Slovenia, an Alpine nation, and Humar's climbs were closely watched by his fellow-Slovenes. His death left the country deeply saddened, and Prime Minister Borut Pahor sent a note of condolence to Humar's family on Saturday.

Gerold Biner, flight operations manager for the Swiss Air Zermatt company, said earlier that Humar's body was recovered early Saturday by a three-man rescue team.

"They called me ... to tell me the rescue mission was over," Biner said.

Humar last contacted his base on Monday to say he had been injured while climbing Langtang Lirung. Groselj said Humar had broken his leg and become stranded.

Rescuers in Katmandu said that Sherpa guides had trekked the snowy slopes where Humar was supposed to be but could not find him earlier in the week.

Heavy snowfall on Wednesday and Thursday also forced climbers to postpone searches because of increased avalanche risk.

Humar was climbing a difficult route up Langtang Lirung, which made rescue efforts even more difficult.

Biner said the team "spotted him quite quickly" on Saturday.

"He was lower than expected, at 5,600 meters not 6,300 meters," he said.

In 2005, Humar was trapped in the Himalayas on an icy ledge of Nanga Parbat mountain at about 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) during a solo climb. Two Pakistani army helicopter pilots eventually saved him and were later decorated with Slovenia's highest award for bravery.


Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.