The last words of a Toronto woman who died after reaching the summit of Mount Everest were "save me," says a close friend.
Shriya Shah-Klorfine of Toronto was one of four people who died while descending from the summit Saturday in what are being described as overcrowded conditions.
One of her best friends, Shellyann Siddoo, says her family is now trying to find a way to bring her body back to Canada. Shah-Klorfine's body is still on Everest above the highest camp, known as South Col.
"I just learned this morning that her last words were 'save me,' as she was taking her last breath," Siddoo said in a Tuesday interview with CBC's Metro Morning. Shah-Klorfine had spoken to her Sherpa guide before her death.
"You know what, it just broke my heart. I haven't [eaten] anything since Saturday. I've just been crying. I've lost my best friend and my dear sister."
A Nepal tourism ministry official said Shah-Klorfine, 33, and a Chinese climber, Wang-yi Fa, 55, were killed Saturday when the mountainside was hit by strong winds. Fa's Nepalese Sherpa guide is still missing.
Shah-Klorfine and Fa were believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, said Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha.
The two others who died were Eberhard Schaaf, a 61-year-old German doctor, and Song Won-bin, a mountaineer from South Korea.
A lifelong dream
Shah-Klorfine was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, grew up in Mumbai, India and then moved to Canada to be with her husband and start an import business, SOS Splash of Style Inc. Last year, Shah-Klorfine was a candidate for Mississauga East-Cooksville in the last Ontario election as a member of the Paramount Canadians Party.
"It was her lifelong dream" to reach the summit of the world's tallest peak, said Siddoo. She said Shah-Klorfine and her parents had taken a helicopter to Everest when she was a nine-year old girl, and she had been fixated on climbing the mountain ever since.
It was Shah-Klorfine's first trek to the 8,850-metre peak. Her godfather, Bikram Lamba, said she mortgaged her house to pay for the expedition, at a cost of nearly $100,000.
She prepared for the trek by walking hills around her home near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue, while wearing a 20-kilogram backpack. Her regimen, which she prepared herself in consultation with her expedition team in Nepal, also included karate, rock climbing and cardiovascular work, said Siddoo.
Her team in Nepal told her that she can do all her cardio work and pre-training ahead of time, said Siddoo. When she got there, the team told her they "will teach you all you need to know," she said.
"You will be doing [an] 18-day trek up to base camp, and when you reach the base camp, we will teach you how to use the ladders and everything like that."
An estimated 150 climbers tried to reach the top Friday and Saturday as they rushed to use a brief window of good weather in an otherwise troubled climbing season. Many had been waiting at a staging camp for several days for their chance to head to the summit.
"There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m., which is quite dangerous," Shrestha said.
Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at the South Col is nicknamed the "death zone" because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.