Reuters International

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A 36-year-old Dutch climber died while descending from the summit of Everest, the first to perish this year on the world's highest mountain, officials in Nepal said on Saturday.

Eric Ary Arnold was among over 40 climbers who reached the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) summit on Friday, but died later that day while coming down on high-altitude slopes known as the "death zone" because of the prevailing thin air, Tourism Department official Gyanendra Shrestha said.

Mingma Sherpa of the Seven Summits Treks company that organised Arnold's expedition said his client complained of weakness while descending above 8,000 metres (26,246 feet) and probably died from altitude sickness.

"We are trying to get in touch with his family and insurance company about the body which is still on the mountain," he said.

A Nepali sherpa who was fixing ropes on nearby Lhotse, world's fourth highest peak - at 8,516 metres (27,940 feet) - fell to his death this week. More than 330 climbers have reached the top of Everest this month.

An earthquake last year killed at least 18 people at the Everest Base Camp, situated at some 5,400 metres (17,800 feet) altitude, and forced hundreds of climbers to abandon their expeditions. The quake, the worst in Nepal's recorded history, killed 9,000 people across the Himalayan nation.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Mark Heinrich)

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