A team of professional and experienced climbers are to begin a search for missing Irish father-of-one Séamus Lawless tomorrow who disappeared just hours after summiting the world’s highest mountain.
The assistant professor in artificial intelligence at Trinity College’s School of Computer Science and Statistics, had successfully reached the summit of 8,848m, last Thursday along with several others in his group of eight, led by well known and respected Co Down adventurer Noel Hanna.
The search for Mr Lawless, from Bray, Co Wicklow has now turned into a recovery operation in an area known as the death zone where oxygen levels are very low.
Mr Hanna and his expedition team returned to Everest base camp after extreme weather conditions eased.
The expedition handling agency, Seven Summits Treks. in coordination with the Irish government and victim’s family today decided to launch a recovery operation above Camp Four on Mt Everest where Mr Lawless was last seen.
Mingma Sherpa, Chairman at Seven Summit Treks, said a team of nine climbers led by Irish mountaineer Mr Hanna has been formed to begin a search and recovery operation above Camp Four on Mt Everest.
Speaking to the Himalayan Times, Mingma Sherpa said: “Hanna-led team will leave for Camp IV from the base camp later this evening.”
There will be eight high-altitude Sherpa climbers including Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, a director at Seven Summit Treks and Temba Bhote, a lead guide of the expedition. Hanna and Bhote along with Mr Lawless made it to the summit of Mt Everest last Thursday.
According to Sherpa, the team will begin a search for the missing Irish climber on Thursday morning. “Hanna was a team leader of the expedition while Bhote served as a lead guide to the team,”
Sherpa said, that the duo were aware of the location at the balcony area from where Lawless reportedly slipped while descending from the summit point.
Upon arrival at the base camp, fellow climbers reported that they saw Lawless slipping from the height of 8,300 m, according to Mingma Sherpa. “The team, equipped with search and recovery equipment, will try its best to recover Lawless’s body from the Mt Everest death zone,” he added.
A fundraising drive on the GoFundMe crowd sharing page, set-up by Mr Lawless’ family last Friday has so far raised €260,000.
They aim to raise €750,000 as they have said that they have been forced to look for donations, as the insurance company which provided a policy for Mr Lawless, are currently not providing assistance with the search and rescue operation.
Mr Lawless attempted the mammoth climb to raise up to €25,000 for Barretstown, a charity dedicated to seriously ill children and their families.
One of Ireland’s leading mountaineers and adventurers, Pat Falvey, who is the only Irish person to successfully ascend Mt Everest from the north and south faces confirmed that the search will begin in the next few hours.
He said: “The season is coming to an end and time is of the essence.
“They have a clean run in of good weather, now for the next seven days so hopefully it will go well.
"If Mr Lawless fell into somewhere awkward then the team may not be able to retrieve him. Safety has to come first for everyone involved."