Newcastle mountaineer Michael Davis has died after a falling rock severed his climbing ropes as he descended a peak near Mount Everest in eastern Nepal.
The 33-year-old former Ausgrid engineer from Wallsend was with a group of 15 climbers on Thursday last week when the freak accident happened on the 6812-metre Ama Dablam mountain in the Himalayas.
It was Mr Davis’ first trip to the world’s highest mountain range, but he had climbed two other peaks earlier in the five-week expedition.
The Himalayan Times quoted expedition organiser Tshering Pande Bhote, the managing director at Top Himalaya Guides, as saying Mr Davis had fallen to his death below the highest camp on the mountain.
The accident had occurred when the climbers, including high-altitude guides, were descending from the camp after a strong wind.
“The mountaineer fell to his death after a huge rock damaged the ropes he was using to descend the mountain,” Mr Bhote said.
He said other members of the expedition were safe.
Ama Dablam, which means “mother’s necklace”, has two long ridges leading to the steep summit. It is one of the most popular climbing mountains in the Himalayas.
An aerial rescue operation retrieved Mr Davis’ body immediately after the accident.
“His body has already been airlifted to Kathmandu for post-mortem,” Mr Bhote told the newspaper.
Mr Davis’ brother, Nick, and parents, Geoff and Kathy, will leave for Nepal on Monday to accompany Mr Davis’ body home and find out more about how he died.
His sister-in-law, Kobie Davis, said on Sunday that the family had spoken to a Norwegian doctor who was climbing with the group at the time of the accident.
“He said Michael had double safety ropes all connected,” she said. “He kind of indicated the rock hit Michael as well as cutting the rope.
“He was there when it happened and accompanied his body back to Kathmandu.”
Mr Davis went to school at St Mary’s at Gateshead and St Francis Xavier’s College and was a graduate of the University of Newcastle, where he was a member of the campus mountaineering club.
Ms Davis said her brother-in-law was “just one of those people who wanted to go out there and see the world and make the most it”.
“Once we announced it on Facebook, the family’s realised how many different circles of friends he had, because he was into so many different adventure activities,” she said.
“He’s got mountain bike friends, uni mountaineering club friends. He was in the Seahampton Rural Fire Brigade.
“He was really widely travelled as well. For a while he was living in Guatemala volunteering at an orphanage. He went to Canada snowboarding and worked a season over there.”
Mr Davis posted a handful of photographs on Facebook on October 28 after arriving in Nepal.
“After nine months of on-and-off training it’s finally begun. Very excited,” he wrote.
A friend told the Newcastle Herald that Mr Davis was “not the type to be sitting at home”.
Another friend, Dean Spong, paid tribute to Mr Davis on Facebook on Saturday.
“The world wakes a sadder place today,” he wrote.
“Our mate Michael has left us doing what he loved, conquering the nooks and crannies of the world most of us only dream about.
“Your endearing quirks and zest for life made you a truly unique character that had the ability to make life easy and fun when you were around.
“Your impact on us all is immeasurable. We’ll miss you mate.”
Mr Davis is also survived by his sister, Alison.