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Sherpas running out of time to retrieve body from Everest

Shriya Shah-Klorfine, expedition manager Rishi Kandel and Ganesh Thakuri, managing director of Utmost Adventure Trekking Pvt. Ltd., on the way to Camp 1.

With an ever-narrowing window of safe climbing weather, the family of a Toronto woman who died on Mount Everest worries that sherpas won't be able to recover her body.

On Saturday morning a team of climbers reached the Balcony, a section of the mountain about 8,310 metres above sea level where the body of Shriya Shah-Klorfine, 33, was lying.

But Bruce Klorfine, Ms. Shah-Klorfine's husband, said one of the sherpas suffered an injury.

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After bringing the remains down to South Col, at 7,800 metres, strong winds forced the team to abandon the body and head back to camp.

They won't be able to resume the dangerous task of sliding the remains, tied to a sled, down steep icy slopes until they find another climber to assist them, Mr. Klorfine said.

Ganesh Thakuri, who is in charge of the recovery effort, said they're also waiting for the winds to settle.

"We have to wait and see," said Mr. Thakuri, who was unsure of when the trek might resume.

Meanwhile, the end of safe climbing weather – when the south side of the mountain is effectively closed off – draws nearer.

In late May, rising temperatures and thawing ice force removal of the ladders in the Khumbu Icefall, a 610-metre glacier, said American mountaineer Alan Arnette, who reached the summit last year.

Without the ladders, it's impossible for even the most experienced climber to return from the high camps, Mr. Arnette said in an e-mail. Monsoons also restrict access to the mountain.

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"The monsoon are forming right now in southern India and there are reports of heavy rain in Luka, the nearest airport used to transport climbers in and out of the Everest area each spring," Mr. Arnette said. "So the window appears to be closing rapidly – they may have a few days left at this point."

Mr. Arnette added that winds are expected to pick up into Sunday.

Darren Klorfine, Ms. Shah-Klorfine's brother-in-law, said that although the body is now in a more retrievable spot, he's worried the sherpas won't able to go back for it in time.

"I'm concerned that the weather window is closing," he said. "I think my brother will have a lot more peace once this is all settled and over with."

A team of sherpas was supposed to set out on Thursday but was stalled by an avalanche. They began climbing Friday, expecting to recover the body Sunday.

But the climbers got an early start Saturday, departing at 2 a.m. and reaching South Col by 5 a.m. From there it took them about three hours to reach the body, said Mr. Thakuri.

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Ms. Shah-Klorfine's husband, Bruce Klorfine, said in an e-mail he will be in Nepal on Monday.

"I hope [the sherpas]will be successful, but especially wish for them to return safely," he wrote Saturday morning.

If his wife's body is recovered, Mr. Klorfine said a funeral service will be held in Nepal, where Ms. Shah-Klorfine still has family.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine grew up in Everest's shadow in Kathmandu, before moving to Mumbai with her parents and then to Toronto with her husband.

She had dreamt of scaling the mountain since she was 9. For the past two years, Ms. Shah-Klorfine had been walking and running 19 kilometres a day with 20 kilograms of weight strapped to her back to prepare for the climb.

She and her husband put off having children so she could conquer the mountain, and remortgaged their house to raise about $100,000 for the trek.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine's friends said she sounded excited when she called them May 18 from the final camp before the summit.

But while descending from Everest's peak, the climber collapsed in the snow and died from exhaustion and a lack of oxygen. Climbers from Germany, South Korea and China also perished last Saturday.

Ms. Shah-Klorfine's husband said her remains will be cremated and repatriated to Canada.

With a report from Globe staff

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Alexandra Posadzki joined the ROB in August 2017, after spending nearly three years covering banking and real estate, among other topics, for the Canadian Press newswire. More

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