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In shadow of climber's death, Canadians reach Everest summit

Shriya Shah-Klorfine of Toronto is shown in a Facebook picture from the Mt. Everest's base camp, date May 12, 2012.

HO/The Canadian Press

In the shadow of four deaths last weekend, scores of climbers took advantage of the last window of good weather of the season to resume their attempts to reach the top of Mount Everest, with a Canadian-led group making the summit Friday morning, along with another group that carried a Canadian Olympic medal.

The Peak Freaks expedition, organized by guide Tim Rippel of Nelson, B.C., reported that 11 climbers, including Canadian John Stephen, arrived shortly after 5 a.m. at the top of the world's highest mountain.

"Seems the nightmare on the 18/19th is all behind us now. Congratulations team... you worked incredibly hard and displayed great tenacity," Mr. Rippel's wife, Becky, posted on the expedition blog.

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She was alluding to the high winds that forced one of the expedition's two teams to turn around.

Last weekend's bad weather also stumped Sandra Leduc of Ottawa, who had to give up around 3 a.m. Sunday.

She descended back to Camp IV, at 7,890 metres, without help from her oxygen bottle for three hours because her mask's regulator was frozen.

On Friday morning, Ms. Leduc was starting a second attempt at the summit. "We're trying dammit and we're doing good. Let's see if we can make this happen," she tweeted.

Earlier in the morning, another expedition with links to Canada also reached the pinnacle of the 8,848-metre peak, fulfilling a pledge made nearly a century ago to the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

The expedition's leader, British climber Kenton Cool, carried with him an Olympic medal loaned to him by Toronto resident Charles Wakefield.

The medal belonged to Mr. Wakefield's grandfather, Arthur, a British-born physician who later settled in Newfoundland then Quebec.

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Arthur Wakefield was the medical officer on the 1922 expedition that first tried to summit Everest. Among its members was George Mallory who would famously disappear two years later in another attempt at ascending Everest.

At the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, Baron de Coubertin awarded the expedition members a medal for alpinism and they promised him to bring one of the medals to the top of Everest, a pledge unfulfilled until Friday.

Other climbers were also on the move Friday, but with a more sombre purpose. After being delayed by an avalanche Thursday, sherpas set out on a mission to retrieve the remains of Shriya Shah-Klorfine, the 33-year-old Toronto woman who was one of four who died last Saturday.

The recovery of her body, believed to be near the Balcony, at 8,310 metres, is expected to take place Sunday. Her husband, Bruce Klorfine, will soon be travelling to Nepal.

In an e-mail Friday, he said if the attempt to recover his wife's body is successful, a funeral service will be held in Nepal, where Ms. Shah-Klorfine still has family, although her parents have passed away. She was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, and grew up in Mumbai, India, before moving to Toronto with her husband.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine's cremated remains will be repatriated to Canada. Her insurance company has been helpful, Mr. Klorfine noted. He added that her family is not seeking government funding for the retrieval effort.

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The current Everest climbing season, which closes May 31, has been marked by 10 deaths, according to a tally compiled by Colorado climber Alan Arnette.

Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with Nepal's Tourism Ministry, told the Associated Press that 82 climbers reached the summit on Friday morning.

Mr. Shrestha, who is at the base camp, said 120 climbers started the last phase of the climb on Thursday night but not all of them reached the summit. He said it was normal for some of the climbers to quit at the last treacherous part of the climb for various reasons.

With a report from Renata D'Aliesio

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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