Mountaineer Nobokazu Kuriki has decided to abandon his final approach to the world's highest peak, ending his fifth attempt to climb Mount Everest. He is the only climber to attempt the feat since the Nepal earthquake.
The 33-year-old athlete was nearing the summit alone and had no oxygen canister, when he made the decision to turn back to base.
"I decide to descend," Kuriki posted on Facebook early on Sunday.
The Japanese climber had entered the so-called "death zone" of Mount Everest, located above 8,000 meters and infamous for its thin air and especially difficult terrain.
"I tried hard taking all my energy, but it took too much time to move in deep, deep snow. I realized if I kept going, I wouldn't be able to come back alive, so I decided to descend," he wrote.
"Thank you so much for all your support. I appreciate you all from the bottom of my heart," he added.
Kuriki was the only climber to try to reach Mount Everest since a disastrous earthquake in April, which killed nearly 8,900 people in Nepal.
The quake also triggered avalanches in the Himalayas, claiming the lives of at least 18 mountaineers on Mount Everest itself and prompting the authorities to ban climbers from heading to the top.
The ban lasted for four months, a serious blow to Nepal's economy, which relies on income generated by tourists.
The government also shut down the mountain last year after 16 Nepali guides died in an avalanche.
'Nervous and afraid'
Last month, the country's tourism minister, Kripasur Sherpa, handed the climbing permit to Kuriki in a ceremony in Kathmandu, praising his expedition as a "positive example" for other visitors.
"I do feel nervous and afraid," said Kuriki before setting out on his journey. "This is only natural before attempting the challenge of climbing Mount Everest, particularly after the earthquake and at this time of year."
Climbers usually avoid the autumn season because of bad weather and shorter intervals of sunlight.
This is Kuriki's fifth attempt to reach the top. The Japanese athlete lost nine fingers to frostbite during an earlier attempt three years ago.
dj/lw (AFP, Reuters)