KATHMANDU - An Australian trekker hiking in Nepal's Everest region has died of suspected altitude sickness after falling unconscious, local police and a trekking company official said Tuesday.
The 64-year-old, his niece and their guide were returning from the scenic Gokyo Lakes region, which lies at an altitude of 4,700m-5,000m, when he fell sick on Sunday evening.
"He became unconscious as they were walking down. The guide then contacted us for help," said Ranjit Lama of Himaland Adventure Treks which had organised the expedition.
Local police official Khagendra Khadka said the trekker's body was airlifted to Nepal's capital Kathmandu for a post-mortem to confirm the cause of death.
"We suspect that altitude sickness probably caused his death," Khadka told AFP.
Locals refer to the Gokyo region, dotted with turquoise lakes and stunning views of Mount Everest, as 'Death Valley' since the relatively easy terrain prompts hikers to ascend too quickly, creating conditions ripe for altitude sickness as atmospheric pressure drops fast.
Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, was hit by tragedy in October when 43 hikers, guides and porters lost their lives in a massive snowstorm on the popular Annapurna circuit.
Earlier in the same month, a British woman died of altitude sickness while returning from a trek to Everest base camp. She was found dead in her hotel room after complaining of respiratory problems.
Hundreds of climbers also abandoned plans to ascend Mount Everest last April after an avalanche struck the world's highest mountain, killing 16 Nepalese guides in the deadliest ever accident to hit the 8,848-metre peak.