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American Doctor Dies on Mount Everest

John Sugarman was known for his humanitarian work. He'd recently started climbing again. This was his second trip to Everest

A climber from Seattle died at Everest’s camp two on Monday, according to the expedition organizer. Pasang Sherpa told the media, “Jonathan Sugarman died at camp two after he began to feel unwell.” Sugarman is the fourth climber to die on Everest this season. Nepal has issued a record number 463 permits this spring season. The weather has been sub-optimal, there’s overcrowding and several rescues have already taken place.

Sugarman, a retired physician, was climbing with the Washington state-based International Mountain Guides and Beyul Adventure. Pasang Sherpa said that “his body remains at Camp 2 with the rest of the climbing team.” The Embassy of the United States issued a statement after Sugarman’s death: “We can confirm Dr. Jonathan Sugarman passed away while climbing Mt. Everest Monday May 1. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. The Embassy is in contact with Dr. Sugarman’s family and with local authorities. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we cannot comment further.

Sugarman climbed when he was younger and returned to it later in life. In 2016, he suffered high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) at camp one on Cho Oyu. Then in 2021, he climbed Cotopaxi (5,897 m) and attempted other tall mountains in Ecuador. After his trip, he said, “I felt fit and confident that I’d be prepared for Nepal.” He then travelled to Nepal and climbed Lobuche (6,119 m) and Island Peak (6,160 m). He then made it to camp three (7,300 m) on Everest using bottled oxygen up the Lhotse Face from camp two.  “I landed at camp one no worse for the wear,” he told Uphill Athlete in an interview here. “I was overcome with emotion to actually be looking at the Western Cwm, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Everest in real life instead of just in pictures.”

Before retiring, Sugarman was the president and CEO of Qualis Health, a Seattle-based nonprofit. As Everest expert Alan Arnette details, Sugarman was a graduate of Harvard College, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine. He served as a clinical professor in the departments of family medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington and was a board member at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Sugarman also worked with the Indian Health Service in New Mexico’s Shiprock. Our condolences to his family and friends.

John Sugarman at camp three on Everest in 2022. Photo part of his interview at Uphill Athlete
John Sugarman at camp three on Everest in 2022. Photo part of his interview at Uphill Athlete