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Jason Kennison smiling with his fist in the air
Australian climber Jason Bernard Kennison has died after summiting Mount Everest. Photograph: Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Facebook page
Australian climber Jason Bernard Kennison has died after summiting Mount Everest. Photograph: Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Facebook page

Australian climber Jason Kennison dies on Mount Everest while returning from summit

Forty-year-old, who was raising money for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, spent years recovering from a spinal injury after being told he might never walk again

An Australian man who climbed Mount Everest after learning to walk again has died on his return from the summit.

Jason Bernard Kennison died on Friday. His family said “he achieved his goal of reaching the peak … he stood on top of this world but sadly didn’t come home.”

The 40-year-old mechanic was part of an expedition run by Asian Trekking, whose managing director, Dawa Steven Sherpa, told the Himalayan Times that Kennison had started showing abnormal behaviour from the south summit.

The two Sherpa guides with him helped him down to the balcony area, which is 8,400m above sea level. The guides descended to camp four after Kennison refused to move, Sherpa said.

“Since the oxygen cylinders that they had with them were running out, they decided to descend to camp four, hoping to climb back again with oxygen cylinders to rescue him,” Sherpa told Agence France-Presse.

But strong winds and bad weather prevented the guides from returning immediately, the Himalayan Times reports.

Kennison’s climb came 17 years after he was told he might never walk again, following a 2006 car accident that left him battling spinal cord injuries and depression. He was using his ascent to raise money for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.

He recounted on his Just Giving page how the motivation to climb Everest came after another spinal procedure three years ago brought another round of rehab: “Someone close to me convinced me that I was still capable of being able to do anything I wanted.”

He said the gift of a surfboard had given him the motivation “to see my life in a different light, to view what I was missing personally inside, and admire the obstacles that I had overcome”.

“In 2023 I will head to Nepal, to see and be on Mount Everest, a long way from once battling traumatic injuries and the low and dark days of depression. An ambitious feat that I would never have dreamed of, or thought was possible after once being told that I would not be able to walk.

“I am going to make the most of my life and part of that involves helping other people who have had their life changed in an instant through spinal cord injury. They shouldn’t be forgotten; they should be helped.”

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His family said on social media: “He was the most courageous, adventurous human we knew and he will be forever missed.”

Before he left for Everest, Kennison told 7News: “I’ve always challenged myself internally overcoming these things. Everest has become this symbol to me of overcoming those challenges and getting that fulfilment.”

In the lead-up to the ascent he flew to New Zealand for mountaineering courses, practised abseiling and rock climbing, and set up training in his back yard for ladder crossing, jumaring and roping.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian who had died in Nepal.

Mount Everest has recorded 10 deaths this spring season, with two climbers still missing above the high camps, according to the Himalayan Times.

Asian Trekking has been contacted.

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