NOEL Hanna – a hugely popular and respected climber – has died while descending one of the world’s most notoriously dangerous mountains.
Hanna, a gifted athlete with a remarkable history of summits, was confirmed deceased after being carried down the 8,091m peak and taken to Kathmandu.
It is not yet known how the 56-year-old Dromara native died, but he is understood to have passed away at the base camp of Annapurna – the world’s 10th highest mountain. His death was confirmed by Thaneswar Guragai of Kathmandu-based Seven Summit Treks.
In an incredible climbing career, Hanna scaled six of the ‘seven summits’ – the highest mountains of each continent – including Everest on no fewer than 10 occasions. He climbed the world’s highest mountain with his wife Lynne in 2016.
The couple lived in Dromore, County Down, close to where he grew up near the Mourne Mountains. It was in the Mourne range where, as a child, he developed a love for climbing.
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Annapurna, situated in the Gandaki Province of Nepal, for decades held the highest fatality rate of all principal 8,000m mountains since it was first peaked in 1950 by French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal.
Since then, only 365 people have managed to reach the summit of Annapurna I, with 72 climbers dying on the mountain.
It has claimed the lives of some of the world’s most gifted and well-known climbers, including Yorkshiremen Ian Clough and Alex MacIntyre in 1970 and 1982, France’s Pierre Beghin in 1992, Anatoli Boukreev from Kazakhstan in 1997, Spain’s Iñaki Ochoa in 2008, and, more recently, Park Young-seok in 2011.
Young-seok was regarded as one of the climbing greats after he became the first person in the world to complete the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’. The South Korean climbed the world’s 14 8,000m mountains, the ‘Seven Summits’, and also trekked to both the North and South poles.
Together with team members Shin Dong-min and Gang Gi-seok, Young-seok Park aborted an attempted ascent from a new route up Annapurna at around 6,400 metres on October 18, 2011 before being declared missing. Despite a rescue party attempting to find the trio, a recovery operation was called off at noon on October 28. Their remains were never found.