Chinese mountaineer was prepared to die - but not from terrorist gunfire in Pakistan

Yang Chunfeng just 3 peaks short of climbing world's top 14 when terrorists cut him down

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 8:03am

Yang Chunfeng 1968-2013

Yang Chunfeng dreamt of conquering the world's 14 highest peaks. But the dream was cut short on Sunday when terrorists struck in northern Pakistan.

Ten people died in the dawn massacre at the foot of Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth-highest mountain and the western anchor of the Himalayas.

Yang told friends before leaving for Pakistan that he would "complete the 14 mountains or lie on a snowy mountain forever", according to mainland media reports.

His family planned to fly to Islamabad early today to bring his body back to Urumqi , Xinjiang , according to one of his business partners, Ma Liya.

Yang, a thin ethnic Han in his mid-40s, was one of the mainland's most notable mountaineers and its only civilian to have climbed 11 of the 14 highest peaks. He was also a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and once owned a clinic in Urumqi.

He got a taste for climbing mountains in early 1998 when he scaled a 4,700-metre peak in Xinjiang. In an interview with the Xinjiang Metropolis Customers Daily in 2011, he recalled nearly slipping and falling to his death on that climb. But when he saw the view from the summit, he fell in love with the sport.

To pursue his dream Yang closed his clinic and opened an adventure-themed company in Urumqi and later moved to Chengdu , Sichuan .

He learned to climb under one of the mainland's top mountaineers, Wang Tienan, and became an experienced mountain guide and holder of several mainland climbing records.

He scaled Everest twice by 2009, Tibet's Mount Cho Oyu, the world's sixth-highest mountain at 8,201 metres, in 2008, and Nepal's Mount Manaslu, the eighth-highest at 8,156 metres, in 2009. Over the following years Yang decided to extend his tally of conquering the world's highest peaks, including Mount Dhaulagiri (No 7 at 8,167 metres), Mount Kanchenjunga (No 3 at 8,586m), Mount Gasherbrum II (No 13 at 8,035m) and Mount Gasherbrum I (No 11 at 8,080m).

Last year Yang continued his expedition and reached the summits of Annapurna (8,091m) and Lhotse (8516m). He drew media attention by reaching the summit of K2, at 8,611 metres the world's second-highest peak and one of the deadliest. After conquering Mount Makalu (8,481m) in April, Yang had just three more peaks to conquer to reach his goal of the world's top 14.

Yang suffered the lowest point of his career in May 2010, when three of his team members died in a snowstorm on Mount Dhaulagiri. Yang, as team leader, was blamed for their fate but faced the criticism with silence. Later, he told a newspaper: "I may lose my life by climbing mountains, but I have to go."

Yang's friends and teammates expressed grief at his death. "Almost all mountain climbers have pictured their death by snowstorm or altitude sickness," said Zhao Yi , a friend of Yang. "Yang might have too, but he never imaged being killed by bullets from terrorists."