Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group

Killed in Himalaya

Richard Payne, a former Marie Curie Fellow with EECRG in 2003, was killed climbing in the Himalaya

Richard Payne in climbing gear sitting on a rock
University of York

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Richard and seven other climbers went missing on 28 May high on Nanda Devi (7816 m) in the Garhwal Himalaya of northern India, the second highest mountain in India and the 23rd highest in the world. Five bodies were spotted below a ridge leading to an unnamed peak (informally called Peak 6447) but their retrieval proved very difficult because of the terrain, avalanche dangers, and atrocious weather. Thanks to a break in the weather, the five bodies plus an additional one were recovered by local guides with helicopter support. One of these bodies has now been identified as Richard Payne.

The original plan of Richard's group was to climb Peak 6447 before their planned ascent of Nanda Devi East (also know as Sunanda Devi; 7434 m). Nanda Devi is one of the most difficult Himalayan peaks, first climbed in 1936 by Bill Tilman and Noel Odell and since only ascended about ten times. Nanda Devi East is very rarely climbed. Tenzing Norgay of Everest fame, climbed it in 1951 to look for two missing climbers. He described it as "the most difficult climb of my life, even more difficult than Everest".

Richard's research interests were centred on different aspects of peatlands, including history, testate amoebae, land-use restoration, carbon storage, and impacts of pollutants such as N, S, and ozone and of climate change on peatlands worldwide. He was based in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York. He published over 100 papers, including some with EECRG members. He was an outstanding international peatland scientist with many new and exciting ideas, a wide scientific vision, and endless energy and enthusiasm. He will be greatly missed by all in the palaeoecology world.