Famed Swiss climber dies

By AAP with AG Staff 1 December 2013
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Mountaineering legend Erhard Loretan has died in a climbing accident on his 52nd birthday.

SWISS MOUNTAINEERING GUIDE Erhard Loretan, one of the few climbers to ever reach the summits of all 14 of the world’s peaks above 8,000 metres, has died in a climbing fall on his 52nd birthday.

Swiss police said on Friday that Loretan died leading a client up the summit ridge of the Grunhorn, in the Bernese Alps. The accident occurred on Thursday afternoon. The pair had skied up part way, then roped up for the final ascent.

They fell for unknown reasons at 3800m up the 4043m peak. Loretan died at the scene, police from the Swiss canton (state) of Valais said. His 38-year-old Swiss client was flown to a hospital in serious condition. Police are still investigating.

Mountaineering legend

Loretan, originally from the canton of Fribourg, began climbing at age 11. He climbed his first 8000m peak, Pakistan’s difficult Nanga Parbat, in 1982. It took him 13 years to make it up the other 13 peaks over 8000m.

His 1986 ascent of Mount Everest, without bottled oxygen and in a night-time push that took just 40 hours, stunned the climbing world and made headlines in climbing magazines and newspapers.

It also cemented his reputation as one of the world’s top mountaineers after becoming the third person, behind Italian legend Reinhold Messner and Polish mountaineer Jerry Kukuczka, to climb all the 8000m peaks. Last year, Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban became the 25th, and only the second woman, to pull off that feat.

But Loretan’s legendary exploits in the mountains were nearly overshadowed by the debate he prompted on babyshaking in Switzerland after he pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter in the death of his seven-month-old son.

In 2003, he was given a four-month suspended sentence for shaking his baby son – for a couple of seconds to stop him crying, he said. He told police he put the child to bed and the crying stopped. He later called an ambulance.

The case’s notoriety also led to new research showing many parents were unaware that infants can die from being shaken for only a few seconds because of weak neck muscles.