An American, Jonathan Sugarman, 69, died at Camp 2 on Everest on Tuesday, May 1, 2023. He was climbing with International Mountain Guides. The retired MD from the Seattle area trained diligently for the expedition and was feeling well. Last year, he summited Lobuche and Island Peak and reached Camp 3, his goal, on Everest.
The retired physician stopped climbing while in college but returned to the sport in his fifties. In an interview he did with Uphill Athlete, Sugarman talked about how he got into climbing, “I climbed when I was in college, but quit cold turkey when I found myself doing something that had resulted in recent deaths. I realized that I was not appropriately concerned. I dragged around a climbing rope, harness, and rack for years, though. When I was in my fifties, my college roommate invited me to travel to Tanzania (where he was picking up his son from a stint working in an orphanage) and climb Kilimanjaro. Although I wasn’t initially inclined, my daughter (then in college) asked if she could come too, and that sealed it. That led me to climb Mount Rainier a short time thereafter, to join the Mountaineers in Seattle, and to take a couple of climbing courses—and then embark on a number of domestic and international climbs.”
In November 2021, he summited Ecuador’s Cotopaxi (5,897 meters) and reached the upper mountain of Cayambe (5,790 meters) and Chimborazo (6,263 meters) before avalanche danger stopped the team. In 2016, despite no earlier issues with altitude sickness, he came down with high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) at Camp 1 (~6,400 meters) on Cho Oyu.
Sugarman, MD, MPH, was, for many years before his retirement, the President and CEO of Qualis Health, a Seattle-based nonprofit recognized as a national leader in improving population health. He 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 serves as a Clinical Professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Washington and was a member of the board of trustees of the Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Widely respected for his humanitarian work, Sugarman worked with the Indian Health Service in Shiprock, New Mexico.
The US Embassy in Kathmandu is aiding in returning his body to the US. He leaves behind his wife, Terese Sullivan, in Seattle and his daughter Maya Sugarman in Los Angeles.
This is the fourth death on Everest this year. Three Sherpas died in the Icefall on April 12. My deep condolences to his family, friend and teammates.
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