Jerzy Kukuczka of Poland, one of the world’s most prominent mountain climbers, died while attempting to climb Lhotse in the Himalayas a few days ago, according to a report from Nepal.
Kukuczka, 40, was the only man besides Reinhold Messner of Italy to climb all 14 of the world’s peaks higher than 8,000 meters (26,000 feet).
Lhotse is next to Everest, the world’s highest mountain, and has the highest mortality rate of any peak. Only nine climbers have reached the summit; eight have died trying.
Few details were available, but Steve Untch, a climber from Green Valley Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains who has climbed with Kukuczka, said he heard that Kukuczka was trying to scale a 16,000-foot face along a route never achieved when either his rope broke or he fell out of his harness.
“My guess would be the rope cut,” Untch said. “I can’t see him falling out of his harness.”