Canadian professor, 63, died while pursuing dream of climbing Mount Everest

A 63-year-old Vancouver doctor died on Thursday pursuing his life-long dream of climbing the highest mountain in the world.

UBC professor and anesthesiologist Pieter Swart, died while descending below Camp 4, the final camp, before the summit on mount Everest, after an “undefined respiratory event,” according to a statement by University of British Columbia.

It was Swart’s life-long dream to summit the highest mountain in the world, according to his family and friends.

“I’ve known him all my life. It has always been his dream to climb Everest,” his wife Suretha Swart told the Star in an interview. The couple were born and raised in South Africa, but have been living in Canada for many years.

Swart was a father of two and was described as a generous, warm, a caring physician, a leader, strong educator and a loving family man, by those who knew him.

“Pieter had an insatiable wanderlust. He was lost to us while bravely pursuing his dream of being on top of the world, since he was nine,” said Hamed Umedaly, the head of the department of anesthesiology at the university.

The university said in a statement that a memorial event for Swart will be held with his family.

On his last Instagram post on May 16, in which he is climbing on the Khumbu icefall – located on the south side of Mount Everest — Swart wrote, “Perfect day.”

Swart was climbing with Madison Mountaineering, a mountain guide service specializing in leading expeditions to climb Everest, according to their website. The company did not respond to the Star’s request for a comment.

Mount Everest is a peak in the Himalaya mountain range located between Nepal and Tibet, and it is the highest peak on Earth 8,849 meters above sea-level.

According to a recent news report by Bloomberg, the average age of Everest climbers is now 42, compared to 34 in 1982, which contributes to an increase in fatalities.

To summit Mount Everest has been a popular, although dangerous, expedition among mountain climbers since the 1950s. One of the biggest dangers is the altitude, according to National Geographic, as most climbers are not accustomed to the high altitude and low oxygen levels and rely on bottled oxygen. The area above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) elevation on Mount Everest is called the “death zone.”

Irem Koca is an Ottawa-based general assignment reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @iremreports


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