American-Scot Dr Robert Milne, 49, dies attempting to climb
• Dr Milne testing new climbing
technology on final day of climbing
• Distraught wife says he would
have wanted to be laid to rest on mountain
"We are just very shocked,
but we know he was doing something he loved doing and was in a
place he wanted to be in. He had felt very fit and well up
until now, which is why it is such a shock" - Valerie
Story in full A SCOTTISH computer
scientist who was hours away from completing his lifetime's
ambition of climbing the world's highest mountains collapsed
and died on the slopes of Everest.
Robert Milne, 49, was only 1,200 feet short of the 29,035ft
(8,850-metre) peak when he and his colleagues paused for a
But, as he stood up to continue his ascent, he collapsed.
By the time other members of the team - including three
doctors - reached him, he was dead.
The experienced climber was finishing a 25-year challenge
to conquer the highest peaks on all seven continents. He had
already climbed Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania, Vinson Massif in
Antarctica, Elbrus in Russia, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in
North America and Aconcagua in South America.
He set himself the challenge when a PhD student in
Edinburgh, and had just one more mountain to climb - Everest.
Last night, his distraught wife said that her husband had
died doing something he loved. Speaking from the family home
in Bathgate, West Lothian, Valerie Milne, 49, said: "We are
just very shocked, but we know he was doing something he loved
doing and was in a place he wanted to be in. He had felt very
fit and well up until now, which is why it is such a shock."
She said he would have wanted to be laid to rest on
Everest. "To him, that would be the most wonderful place," she
said. "He'd always wanted to complete this challenge and it
was very important to him."
Mrs Milne, who was being comforted by the couple's two
children, Alex, 21, and Rosemary, 19, said they had heard that
he had begun to lag behind his group and then collapsed.
"He collapsed very suddenly and when they got to him there
were no vital signs. They were at 8,400 metres, so they
couldn't stay about," she said.
She described her husband, an entrepreneur, scientist and
well-known figure in the Scottish Mountaineering Club, as a "very
positive person" who spent his weekends climbing.
A spokesman for the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which Mr
Milne was a fellow, said he was "extremely saddened".
Yesterday was the final day of the climbing season on the
notoriously difficult mountain.
Dave Morris, the president of the Mountain Protection
Commission, spoke of his sadness at Dr Milne's death and said
Everest presented "an extremely difficult challenge", even for
"It sounds like Dr Milne had altitude problems and at that
height, it gets difficult to breathe," he said.
In his final entry in his weblog diary, dated 27 May, Dr
Milne spoke of his hopes that the ascent could go ahead. Holed
up at base camp because of strong winds, he told friends and
family: "Crossing fingers didn't work before, so please think
of something else! Otherwise in good spirits and health. Back
to my book ..."
Officials in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, said they
were trying to establish how he died. They were still awaiting
details, but it was believed his party had been hampered by
bad weather during the ascent.
Dr Milne had been testing life-saving technology designed
by Edinburgh University to help climbers adversely affected by
altitude sickness. Called IM-PACS, it allows climbers to plan
expeditions more effectively. It also enabled Dr Milne to keep
friends and family up-to-date on his position and any
variations on the route.
Born in Montana in the United States and brought up in
Colorado, Dr Milne came to Edinburgh to do his PhD. He met his
wife there and they married in 1981.
An expert in artificial intelligence, he returned to the US
and worked for the Pentagon before returning to Scotland to
set up his own company, Intelligence Applications.
He was the third person this year to die trying to scale
Everest. Last month, an American died after falling into a
crevasse, while a Canadian died after an apparent heart
CLIMBER'S FINAL DIARY ENTRIES
Robert Milne kept a detailed internet diary of his team's
attempt on Everest.
14 April: Base Camp! I have been feeling
well enough that I arrived at base camp one day early. More
incredible than I ever imagined.
Just back from two days up The Hill. We went up the
icefall for the first time on Monday. Great fun actually. This
is the highest I have ever slept.
I had been told that the climb up the Lhotse Face to
Camp 3 was one of the hardest days of the expedition - and it
was. One of the worst blizzards I had been in for a long time!
6 May: Just down from a couple of days at
Camp 2. Now starts the recovery and wait for the summit
window. I wasn't caught up in the big avalanche at Camp 1.
11 May: Having come back to base camp on
the hope there was a break in the winds, the latest forecast
says there isn't one. So the wait continues. A bit
frustrating, but that is the way of the big mountains.
17 May: There is a glint of good weather,
so we are going up to Camp 2 and will eventually try for the
summit the night of the 20th. I've got my oxygen regulator and
gear all packed. Fingers crossed!
There we were at Camp 3 ready to go to the South Col
for the summit attempt, then we got the latest weather
forecast. So back to Base Camp.
Across all the teams there is a strong feeling of
despair. The weather is not co-operating.
A glint of dropping winds and a chance to go for the
top. The long range forecast says we have a good chance the
first few days of June. Around June they have to close the
icefall as it gets too warm, so it is down to the wire and
getting late. Otherwise in good spirits and health. Back to my