Seattle doctor becomes first foreign tourist to die climbing Mount Everest this year

A US mountaineer has become the first foreign tourist to die this year during an expedition to scale Mount Everest, according to the US embassy in Nepal.

Jonathan Sugarman, 69, who was a Seattle based doctor, died at Camp 2 after he began feeling unwell on Monday.

It was Sugarman’s second attempt to ascend the world’s tallest mountain and he was part of an expedition arranged by Washington state-based International Mountain Guides.

The guiding company said that his death “was not the result of a climbing accident or route condition that would be of potential impact or safety concern to any other teams on the mountain”.

The Embassy of the United States in Nepal issued a statement, saying: “We can confirm Dr Jonathan Sugarman passed away while climbing Mt Everest Monday May 1”.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.”

The embassy said its officials were in contact with Sugarman’s family and with local authorities.

Seattle doctor Jonathan Sugarman died while climbing Mount Everest (via King 5)
Seattle doctor Jonathan Sugarman died while climbing Mount Everest (via King 5)

Eric Simonson, the owner of International Mountain Guides, said: "The rest of the IMG climbing team is all doing as well as can be expected given the circumstances.”

The doctor had tried to climb Everest in 2012 but had to retreat after reaching Camp 3 after he suffered high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).

HAPE is a condition caused by swift changes in elevation. Sugarman told mountaineering website Uphill Athlete that he also suffered HAPE in 2016 when he was climbing another summit in the Himalayan mountains.

“To be honest, I was never sure until I got there that I’d actually make it to Camp 3, so I had a nice sense of accomplishment when I arrived,” he had told the website about his expedition to Everest in 2012.

As of 26 April, Nepal had issued a record 463 permits to Everest climbers for this year’s spring season.

Spring is the most sought-after time for climbers to attempt to reach the peak of Everest, the highest point on earth at 29,032ft (8,849m).

Most climbers target reaching the peak in mid-May, a brief window when temperatures are warmer and conditions most favourable in the harsh high altitudes of the Himalayas.

The record number of permits has raised concerns among environmentalists and mountaineers about potentially dangerous overcrowding at camps and on the mountain’s most popular ridges.

Sugarman is the fourth person to die on Everest during this year’s climbing season. In April, three shepas died after they fell into a crevasse.

The last American who died on the peak was from Connecticut. Puwei Liu died due to exhaustion in 2021 after reaching Hillary Step, a point near the main summit.