This weekend, Min Bahadur Sherchan was preparing to climb Mt. Everest when he died of a suspected heart attack at base camp. The Nepalese climber was 85 years old, and he was preparing to summit Everest again and reclaim his record as the oldest person to climb the world’s tallest mountain. He is the second person attempting a record-breaking climb to die on the mountain this year, and his sudden death has some Nepalese officials questioning whether there should be an age cap on people allowed to summit the mountain.
Sherchan first set the Everest age record in 2008, when he reached the peak at 76. However, five years later, 80-year-old Japanese alpinist Yuichiro Miura took back the record. Sherchan has been looking to retake it ever since.
“Since his record was broken, he wanted to regain it,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
For years, Sherchan’s repeated attempts to snatch back the record have been denied. He had to scuttle a 2013 expedition over financing problems, then had to cut his 2014 climb short when an avalanche killed 16 sherpas. Sherchan was climbing up Everest in 2015 when a deadly earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 9,000 people in the country and 18 at base camp.
In the wake Sherchan’s death, the Nepal Mountaineering Association has renewed calls for an age cap on Everest climbers. They successfully implemented a restriction on people under 16, and they’ve been asking for an upper limit as well. The Nepalese government said in 2015 that they were considering banning climbers over 75. Sherpa has insisted that the government can save lives by instituting a cap:
“It has to come into effect as soon as possible to avoid disasters like the death of Min Bahadur Sherchan. We have been pushing for [it] and we will bring it to the government’s notice once again.”
Most people attempt to climb Everest from the Nepalese side. The Chinese government restricts climbers trying to summit Everest from the Tibetan side to those between 18 and 60 years old, a move which came into effect after 13-year-old American Jordan Romero reached the peak.