KATHMANDU, May 1: An Italian climber has died on Nepal’s rugged Mount Dhaulagiri, officials said Monday, the first fatality of the busy spring climbing season.

Simone La Terra, 37, was blown off the 8,167-meter (26,795-foot) mountain — the world’s seventh highest peak — by a strong gust of wind on Sunday. His body was found Monday.

Dambar Parajuli of Prestige Adventure, which organized the Italian’s expedition, said La Terra was inside a tent at 6,900 meters when he was swept off the mountain.

His team members searched for him on foot while a rescue helicopter struggled against bad weather to search higher up the mountain, Parajuli said.

“His body was found Monday morning at 800 meters below the spot (where he had been camped),” he said.

Ram Prasad Sapkota, spokesman for Nepal’s tourism department which regulates all climbs in the country, also confirmed the death.

“His body has been retrieved and brought to Kathmandu,” Sapkota said.

Dhaulagiri in central Nepal was first climbed in 1960 by a Swiss-Austrian team. It has since been climbed 537 times and claimed the lives of 83 people.

Last year a 33-year-old Sherpa guide became hypothermic and fell to his death after reaching the summit.

The year before a Dutch climber disappeared on the mountain and an Indian climber died of altitude sickness as he attempted to reach the summit.

La Terra was an experienced climber who had summited at least five 8,000 meter peaks and attempted several others in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet, according to his website.

The busy spring climbing season in Nepal, which begins in April when temperatures warm and winds are typically calm, attracts hundreds each year to the Himalayan nation which is home to eight of the world’s highest peaks.

This year the Nepal government has issued permits to 792 mountaineers to attempt summits of 26 mountains in the country from April to May, including 346 permits for the world’s highest peak, Everest. AFP

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