Swiss mountaineer Erhard Loretan dies in climbing accident

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mount Grünhorn Image: johnw.

Acclaimed Swiss mountaineer Erhard Loretan died Thursday on his 52nd birthday when he fell in a climbing accident.

According to Swiss police, Loretan was climbing with a client to the summit of Gruenhor, a 4,043 meter peak in the Bernese Alps, when both fell for unknown reasons from a height of around 3,800 metres. He was killed immediately while his client was hospitalized in serious condition.

Loretan, originally from Fribourg, was eleven years old when he began climbing. In 1982, he climbed his first 8,000-meter peak, Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. He was the third person to summit all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, which he accomplished by the age of 36. This confirmed his reputation as one of the world’s top mountain climbers. In 1986 he ascended Mt. Everest in 40 hours without using supplementary oxygen, a feat that astonished other mountain climbers.

Saying that he was essentially a solitary person, he told a Trento film festival in a video posted on its web site last year, “First of all I’d like to thank the mountains, for almost 40 years they have allowed me to climb, and with this passion I’ve lived an extraordinary life up to now, that’s why I’d like to thank them.”

He added, “I now want to share this passion more with others, and it’s because of this that being a mountain guide is a good profession because you can help someone who dreams about climbing mountains. This is something very beautiful.”

In 2001 his personal life was marred by a manslaughter charge for shaking to death his seven-month old son to stop him from crying. He plead guilty in 2003 and received a four-month suspended sentence. The case ignited a debate in Switzerland over shaking babies.

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