Malaysian climber affected by Acute Mountain Sickness at 6,000m

PETALING JAYA - Even the fittest of athletes can succumb to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), a mountaineer here said.

Malaysian Mountain Goal adventure consultant Phang Tong Wah, 45, said AMS was the most difficult aspect a trekker had to face up Mount Everest's base camp.

"Not everyone can acclimatise to such heights. It depends on the person. Even people who are not fit can acclimatise to the conditions," said Phang, who has been up to Mount Everest's 6,000m mark three times.

He was commenting on the death of Mohamad Shahrulnizam Ahmad Nazari, a Putrajaya Corporation employee who died on Monday while on his way to the Everest base camp.

His death was attributed to AMS.

Shahrulnizam, 25, was part of Putrajaya Corporation's Sports, Recreation and Welfare Club's expedition to Kala Patthar mountain and the Everest base camp.

There were 14 employees, including three women, in the expedition.

He added that those climbing the 4,096m-high Mount Kinabalu in Sabah could be affected by AMS, of which initial symptoms include vomiting, dizziness, cough and headache.

"If you don't descend, it can get worse," said Phang.

Acting medical director of the National Sports Institute Dr Kamarul Hussein said AMS was caused by low oxygen pressure and that it could occur over 2,400m above sea level.

He said the mild symptoms could become severe resulting first in pulmonary oedema (difficulty in breathing) and then move on to high altitude cerebral oedema where brain function could be affected and could result in coma and death.

"If one displays mild symptoms, one should descend a level before ascending again," he said.

Datuk Akmar Hisham Mokhles, adviser to the Felda Everest Project 2013, said the journey up the Everest base camp was not easy and that most people going up would display symptoms of AMS.

Meanwhile, it was reported from Putrajaya that Shahrulnizam's body is expected to be flown back to Malaysia at around noon today.

Putrajaya Corporation public relations senior deputy director Zaharah Salamat said his body is scheduled to return on a 12.20pm Malaysia Airlines flight out of Kathmandu, Nepal.

Zaharah added that his remains had to be kept overnight at Lukla a town in Nepal's Solikhumbu district due to poor weather conditions.

She said the Malaysian Embassy in Nepal has prepared an alternative flight to send the body home if it cannot make it in time for the scheduled flight out of Kathmandu.