Dream of summiting Mount Everest ends tragically for Vancouver anesthesiologist


A Vancouver man has died while attempting to fulfil his life-long dream of summiting Mount Everest, his family and colleagues confirm.

Pieter Swart, 63, died while descending below Camp IV—the last major stop before the summit—after suffering an “undefined respiratory event,” according to a statement by the head of University of British Columbia’s department of anesthesiology, where Swart worked as an associate professor.

“We lost Pieter while he was bravely and courageously pursuing his dream of being on top of the world, since he was nine. As many of you know, Pieter had an insatiable wanderlust,” Hamed Umedaly wrote in a statement Thursday.

Swart died on Thursday while roughly 8,000 metres above sea level—an area commonly referred to as “the death zone” by mountaineers, since oxygen levels at this altitude are so low. 

It’s believed he was climbing with Madison Mountaineering, based on a post on the company’s website. 

He’s being remembered as a “loving family man,” “trusted friend” and positive force whose sense of humour was “second to none.”

Swart’s colleagues say he was a leader and strong educator who inspired many and was always a pleasure to work with.

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

According to Vancouver Coastal Health, Swart worked at Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital over the last 19 years.

In a statement, the health authority said he was a well-known and respected physician, who will be missed by colleagues across the health-care community.

“He was an exceptional anesthesiologist and perioperative physician and had a remarkable ability to connect with patients, trainees and staff while performing countless procedures over the years. He was a true leader in his profession, inspiring everyone who worked alongside him,” VCH wrote.

While a date has yet to be set, plans for a celebration of life are in the works.

According to reports by Nepalese media, this is the 12th death of the season on Mount Everest.


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