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Dream of climbing Mount Everest ends tragically for Vancouver anesthesiologist

Dream of climbing Mount Everest ends tragically for Vancouver anesthesiologist
Dream of climbing Mount Everest ends tragically for Vancouver anesthesiologist

A Vancouver man has died while trying to fulfill his lifelong dream of climbing Mount Everest, his family and colleagues confirmed.

Pieter Swart, 63, died during the descent below Camp IV, the last major stop before the summit, after suffering an “undetermined respiratory failure,” according to a statement from the head of the anesthesiology department at the University of British Columbia, where Swart worked as an associate professor.

“We lost Pieter while he bravely and courageously pursued his dream of conquering the world since he was nine years old. As many of you know, Pieter had an insatiable thirst for travel,” Hamed Umedaly wrote in a statement Thursday.

Swart died on Thursday at about 8,000 meters above sea level, an area often referred to by mountaineers as the “death zone” because oxygen levels are so low at this altitude.

Based on a post on the company’s website, it is believed he was climbing with Madison Mountaineering.

Umedaly told CTV News that Swart had been training for years to achieve his lifelong dream.

Swart had also climbed Denali, the highest peak in North America, and a mountain in South America.

Rael Klein had known Swart since they were in medical school in South Africa.

“We are all devastated by the events that occurred. He was fully aware of the risks, he never did anything haphazardly,” Klein said

He texted Klein whenever he had cell phone reception.

“He was always positive, the whole way. He developed a dry cough and then at Camp IV he developed medical complications from a possible respiratory illness that led to the tragic event,” Klein said.

Swart is remembered as a “loving family man”, “dependable friend” and positive force whose sense of humor was “unmatched”.

According to Swart’s colleagues, he was a leader and a strong teacher who inspired many and with whom it was always pleasant to work.

“He was the foundation of our profession and made us all proud to be colleagues,” Umedaly wrote, adding that Swart left a “strong legacy of contribution.”

He is convinced that Swart would have survived if the weather conditions had been different.

“He would absolutely have achieved that goal and he would have returned alive to his family and friends,” he said.

According to Vancouver Coastal Health, Swart has worked at Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital for the past 19 years.

In a statement, the health authority said he was a well-known and respected doctor who will be missed by colleagues in the health care system.

“He was an exceptional anesthesiologist and perioperative physician and had a remarkable ability to connect with patients, trainees and staff as he performed countless procedures over the years. He was a true leader in his field and inspired all who worked with him,” VCH wrote.

Although a date has not yet been set, plans are in the works for a celebration of life.

According to Nepalese media reports, this is the twelfth death this season on Mount Everest.