Mountaineering legend Tone Škarja dies
Ljubljana, 11 May - Tone Škarja, a professional climber considered one of the pillars of Slovenian mountaineering, has died. The 83-year-old, famous for numerous challenging expeditions, was also a mountain guide, author and photographer.
His death was confirmed on Monday by Matjaž Šerkezi of the Slovenian Alpine Association (PZS).
Škarja, who had been a member of the organisation since 1951, started pursuing mountaineering professionally in 1956. He completed more than 1,000 alpine ascents, including participating in more than 30 trailblazing expeditions.
The 83-year-old was also part of the Yugoslavian Mount Everest expedition in 1979. The mostly Slovenian team scaled the world's highest peak by climbing the western ridge, still unexplored by then.
Later that year, Škarja received the Bloudek Award, Slovenia's most prestigious sports accolade, for the achievement. Together with another legendary climber, Aleš Kunaver, who passed away in the 1980s, he led the successful expedition, the PZS organisation said.
Škarja was also the head of the Kamnik mountain rescue team as well as the chairman of the PZS commission of foreign expeditions. Moreover, he was vice-president of the association between 1998 and 2011.
The Slovenian segment of the Nepal International Mountain Museum was set up and managed by Škarja.
Viki Grošelj, a climber who has scaled the most eight-thousanders among the Slovenian mountaineering elite and the first Slovenian to have climbed the highest summits of all the continents, has responded to today's sad news by highlighting the important role Škarja played in promoting Slovenia's mountaineering and raising it to the highest level.
"I was deeply hurt and shaken by the news of his death, but not completely unprepared since Škarja had been ill for quite some time," Grošelj said, adding that the departed was a mentor and a role model to numerous generations of climbers.