Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui, a respected Kenyan mountaineer, lost his life while climbing Mount Everest on May 22, 2024. This article discusses his life and the events leading up to his final expedition.

Early Life

Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui was born on March 14, 1984, in Nairobi, Kenya. Growing up in a country with beautiful landscapes and tall mountains, Kirui was drawn to the outdoors. His interest with mountaineering began during his teenage years when he participated in school trips to Mount Kenya.

Kirui’s dedication to mountaineering saw him spend much of his youth exploring Kenya’s peaks. He had summited Mt. Kenya (17,057 feet/5,199 meters) 20 times, once climbing it three times in a single day, and set course records on its challenging routes. His ascent of the Lenana Summit via the Sirimon route in under three hours remains one of his most notable early achievements. These feats demonstrated his exceptional endurance and skill in navigating difficult terrains.

Mountaineering Resume

Kirui was a corporate banker by profession, working for Kenya Commercial Bank. But his heart was in the mountains.

His climbing career took off as he expanded his horizons beyond Kenya. He tackled the Rwenzori Mountains, summiting Mt. Stanley (16,763 feet/5,109 meters) and traversed various challenging routes in the Aberdare Range. He became known for his speed ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, which he climbed and descended in just 15 hours.

Kirui also competed in multiple ultramarathons, inlcuding the Ultra Trail Chiang Mai in Thailand, Cappadocia Ultra Trail in Turkey, No Business 100 in the USA, and Beskidy Ultra Trail in Poland. He wrote a book about his experience in the Tor Des Geants in the Italian Alps entitled “An Ultra Marathon Story of the Tor des Geants.”

In 2023, Kirui achieved a significant milestone by summiting Mount Manaslu (26,781 feet/8,163 meters) in Nepal without supplemental oxygen. This achievement made him the first African to conquer an 8,000-meter peak without oxygen.

2024 Everest Expedition

The 2024 Everest expedition was meant to be another milestone in Kirui’s climbing career.

He and his Sherpa guide, Nawang Sherpa, were part of an expedition organized by Seven Summit Treks, based in Kathmandu. The team consisted of climbers from various countries such as the UK, Romania, and Nepal.

Kirui’s personal goal was to test the limits of human endurance at high altitudes. Therefore, he was trying to become the first African to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen, a highly challenging and risky endeavor. It was a dangerous goal but one that Kirui did not take lightly.

“Climbing Everest has been done before. I think the only difference is what I’m trying to do, climbing without supplemental oxygen. That has not been done by any African. It’s the tough way to climb Mt Everest,” Kirui told reporters.

“It is riskier than climbing with supplemental oxygen. So you need to be extremely fit. The success rate of climbing without supplemental oxygen is less than 40%. You have to be in really good shape to be able to get to the summit and down before your body shuts down,” he stated.

The Final Climb

On May 22, 2024, Kirui and Nawang Sherpa began push to the summit from Camp IV at the South Col, located at approximately 26,000 feet (7,925 meters). They lost radio communication with the base camp as they approached the summit. Up there, in Everest’s infamous death zone, the low oxygen in the atmosphere makes it impossible to sustain human life for an extended period of time, especially without supplemental oxygen. Kirui and Nawang Sherpa were reported missing by the expedition company and a rescue team was mobilized from Camp IV in an attempt to find and bring the climbers down.

“Nawang had last communicated with the base camp officials from Bishop Rock (28,904 feet/8,810 meters) that Kirui refused to return and even consumed bottled oxygen but showed abnormal behavior,” the expedition company said.

Kirui had planned to use oxygen in an emergency situation. Prior to the climb, he wrote, “Nawang Sherpa will ferry an emergency bottle of oxygen to be used; if I go lights out or if I go bananas. If I’m time-barred, unfavourable weather, body limit reached when I realize I’m no Superman.”

The rescue team discovered Kirui’s dead body just 157 feet (48 meters) from the summit, at an altitude of 28,872 feet (8,800 meters). He had fallen into a crevasse. Kirui was 40 years old.

Nawang Sherpa, 44, is still missing.

Is Cheruiyot Kirui’s Body Still on Everest?

Kirui’s body remains on the mountain, near the South Summit. His family has chosen to leave it there, believing it to be his final resting place.

It is estimated that the bodies of nearly 200 of the 330 climbers who have died on the world’s highest mountain remain there.

A statement from Kirui’s family read:

“Following the death of Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui on Mt. Everest on May 22, 2024, the family has made the difficult decision to let his body remain on Mt. Everest. This decision was made after extensive consultations and careful consideration of all circumstances.

Cheruiyot fell into a crevasse 48 meters from the summit (8,848 meters) and retrieving his body from that high up would be risky for the rescue team, the family does not wish to endanger any life. Cheruiyot had a profound love for the mountains, and they loved him in return. We find solace in knowing he rests in his happy place.

We appreciate the love and condolence messages received from relatives, friends and the outdoor community. We specifically acknowledge the massive support we have received from the KCB Group family where Joshua worked. We truly know that our son was loved.

We extend our gratitude to Seven Summit Treks for their support, information, and guidance during this time. We also pray for the family of Nawang Sherpa, Cheruiyot’s Sherpa during this expedition, who is yet to be found. May they find peace.

Cheruiyot’s Family”