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Inside Cheruiyot Kirui’s Mt Everest Expedition: From Detailed Plan, Preparation, to Final Social Media Post

Kenyan mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui, known for his daring spirit, passed away just meters from the summit of Mount Everest.
 
Kirui, who embarked on this challenging expedition without supplementary oxygen, was reported missing along with his guide, Nawang Sherpa.
 

His body was discovered a few meters below the summit.

 
Kirui’s ambitious plan to conquer the world’s highest peak was well-documented on his social media platforms.
 
The Chebisaas High School alumnus shared detailed preparations and expressed his readiness for the physical and mental demands of the climb.
 
However, despite his meticulous planning and determination, fate had other plans.
 
Kirui had been preparing for this climb for over a month.
 
He spent 10 days at the base camp acclimatizing and preparing for the final ascent.
 
A no-oxygen attempt, he explained, required special preparations and came with significant risks, including frostbite and altitude sicknesses like High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
 
To mitigate these risks, Kirui equipped himself with specialized gear, including heated gloves, mittens, and socks, alongside spare batteries.
 
He also carried medications like nifedipine for HAPE and dexamethasone for HACE.
 
His guide Nawang had an emergency oxygen bottle for critical situations.
 
Kirui’s final social media updates indicated that he was aware of the extreme risks involved.
 
He jokingly mentioned the financial strain of the expedition and his readiness to face any challenges.
 
However, communication was lost during the final ascent.
 
According to reports from Seven Summit Treks, Kirui refused to use bottled oxygen and exhibited abnormal behavior.
 
His guide had communicated these concerns before they lost contact.
 
Rescuers found Kirui’s body a day later, marking a tragic end to his adventurous spirit.

Cheruiyot Kirui chronicled his entire journey through social media posts, providing a detailed and chronological account of his expedition.

Here is a journey of his expedition as documented in his own words.

Inside Cheruiyot Kirui’s Project “Death Zone”

 

Enter Big Project 2023/24: Project Death Zone

Date: September 2023

Born out of curiosity; what would it feel like to be above 8000m without supplemental oxygen?

Death zone: refers to altitudes above 8000m because there’s the absence of sufficient oxygen pressure to sustain human life.

This is why most people use supplemental oxygen above this altitude.

Project Details

Part 2: April/May 2024.

Attempt the mother of them all. Chomolungma-Goddess mother of the world, or Sagarmatha-Goddess of the Sky, or as the west know her, Everest. 8848.86m ASL. Also without Os.

The People: One Kenyan, @j_muhia, an accomplished alpinist, part of his rich resume include two 7000ers and Ama Dablam in Nepal-6812m ASL (a very scary mountain) among other veritable feats. This Kenyan, Cheruiyot Kirui, is also in the mix.

The Why: Quite simply the adventure of it, and the curiosity of whether my body can handle the death zone.

Muhia has additional honorable reasons, using these outings as a means to advance a cause close to him, which I shall not pre-empt.

Safe to say this is the biggest, most intimidating, costliest project I’ve ever lined up, but once the bug hits it’s impossible to say no. Let’s do this.

Big Project 2024: Everest No-Ox…

Date: April 2024

It’s finally set to begin. An attempt to get to the highest point on earth without supplemental oxygen.

Why no-ox? This is a curiosity expedition.

For some reason, I feel I can comfortably climb Everest with oxygen, which unfortunately neutralizes the thrill of such a climb for me.

I’m not sure of my chances without oxygen though.

Which makes such an attempt exciting, introducing the adrenaline factor, and we just have to find out.

So far 2% of Everest summits have been done without supplemental oxygen (no African yet), can we squeeze into this group?

Let’s see how it unfolds…


Yesterday would have been trekking Day 1… but we’re stuck at Ramenchhap airport for two days now due to weather hiccups, two valuable acclimatization days, no point having a schedule or calendar here.

But hopefully we fly to Lukla tomorrow and hit the ground trekking.

To new heights…

Trekking Update

Date: Early May 2024 

Fun fact: I’m typing this living in a tent perched on a glacier at 5300m altitude.

No more firm ground for some time.

Further fun fact: hearing the glacier crack at night…

Pretty luxurious living at base camp with numerous camps for different outfitters supporting the climbers from 60 countries.

What’s happened so far?

Trekking Day 1: Ramenchhap 500m flight to Lukla 2800m trek to Monjo 2800m

Day 2: Monjo 2800m to Kyangjuma 3600m

Day 3: Kyangjuma 3600m to Dingboche 4300m

Day 4: Dingboche 4300m to Lobuche 4900m

Day 5: Lobuche 4900m to Basecamp 5300m

Luckily got to Basecamp as Puja ceremony for Seven Summit Treks (my outfitter) was underway.

Hastily got into it and was doubly shot by John the Walker labelled black.

Original puja ceremonies have traditional Chang but I didn’t see any.

Basecamp Day 2: Did a body check scramble up Pumori to a height of 5800m, body feels strong.

Basecamp Day 3, 4, 5: Did a recon of Khumbu icefall. Rehashed technical aspects of the climb. And generally lazed around getting acclimatized.

Also I since lost count of time, can’t tell a Thursday from a Sunday. And now I hear April is about to end.

Last fun fact: Internet here costs $120 for 5GB.

Everest Rotation Update

Date: Mid-May 2024

Day 1: Basecamp 5300m to Camp 1 6050m
Started at 2am.

Finally get to experience the (in)famous Khumbu Icefall.

It didn’t look or feel as dangerous as I’d expected it to be.

Only memorable thing is that my right glove found a new home at the bottom of a crevasse as I was preparing to climb the only vertical wall on the Icefall.

Got to camp 1 situated at the lip of the western Cwm.

Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse looking down at us. Camp 1 is basic, hot, and windy during the day.

Physically I got some hotspots only heels which I duly taped.

Day 2: Camp 1 6050m to Camp 2 6450m. Easy day. Easy route. Good times. Took only 2hrs 40minutes. Camp 2 is set on moraine and has better trappings of life than camp 1.

Day 3: Plan was to climb from Camp 2 to Camp 3 at 7300m. It didn’t happen. Strong winds descended on us for more than 24 hours during which time I was imprisoned in my tent.

The situation was not improving so today’s ascent to Camp 3 had to be aborted and I’m back in Basecamp.

Now moving a few marbles around to see how to proceed.

Rotation Number 2 Was Successful

Date: Late May 2024

Day 1: Left Basecamp at 2am. Warm night due to snowy cloudy conditions.

Khumbu climb went well until the vertical wall just before western Cwm a.k.a valley of silence where we experienced a traffic snarl-up for about an hour.

Got to Camp 1 for tea.

UK climber who thinks I am out for some sort of age record gets shocked that I’m all of 40 and he ends up commenting that indeed “black don’t crack” an uncharacteristically hilarious statement at 6000m.

Onwards to Camp 2 where I spent a comfortable night.

Day 2: Left Camp 2 late. It’s a hot day. Getting to Lhotse face I finally start feeling that I’m climbing Everest, that Everest is indeed a big undertaking, with or without oxygen. Lhotse face is steep with blue ice. We’re climbing at 7000m, overclothed with the sun on our backs, and no calories. Stopping to rest is tough as you rarely find a good foothold to rest.

About the caloric intake: I’ve done a good number of starved climbs over time, ostensibly to make my body efficient at ‘burning fat’ for energy. My latest Mt. Kenya climb was done on 300ml of water and no calories. Without breakfast. A roundtrip of 7 hours. I’ve gone much longer on other instances. Such nonsense won’t work at 7,000m on Lhotse face. My body threatened to riot lest I immediately supply ready sugars, still I made it to C3 hungry, exhausted but in good condition. I’ve been doing my rotations without any en-route calories. Only water. That’s over now.

Camp 3: Snowy. An arrival time of close to 5pm with ensuing preparations of tea and victuals conveniently put paid my plans of venturing a little higher. A first accomplished here, full night sleep at 7300m altitude. Good enough sleep. And a warm night. Morning was windy and cold. Time to go down. Descent was mostly snowy and misty. Khumbu icefall had clearly evolved with more and more crevasses opening up, I’m certain by the time I go up again there will be no less than four additional ladders. Now for some downtime in Basecamp in prep for Rotation #3.

Not too long now. Not too long.

Finally. Tonight We Head Up. Summit Rotation.

Date: Late May 2024

After 10 Basecamp days.

But there were parties in honour of successful summits. Kazakh party was particularly lively celebrating the first Kazakh woman summiting Everest (powered by Kenyan armband).

My Plan: A no-oxygen attempt comes with its special preparations and risks, physically my body is ready. On the other risks, I’m taking the following measures;

Cold: Without oxygen one is much more susceptible to frostbite. So I have:

Hands: Pair of heated gloves, pair of heated mittens with a spare set of batteries.

Feet: Two pairs of heated socks with a spare set of batteries.

Meds: I’m susceptible to HAPE so I’m armed with Nifedipine.

For HACE I have Dexamethasone. And Acetazolamide. Manaslu taught me well, having had an episode of HAPE and no meds.

Emergency Oxygen: Nawang Sherpa will ferry an emergency bottle of oxygen to be used:

If I go lights out or if I go bananas

If I’m time-barred

Unfavorable weather

Body limit reacheD: when I realize I’m no Superman

Traffic jam: I’d planned to climb from the Tibet/North side to avoid traffic. But here we are, hopefully, we get to avoid it.

And so after heavy investment physically, mentally, timewise (this expedition is taking more than a month from a regular 8 to 5 banker), financially (the amount of zeros needed to make this happen means I declare bankruptcy immediately I land back in Kenya)…it’s now the moment of truth.

As usual, we reconvene here in a few days to see how things will have turned out.

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