Estonian alpinism pioneer dies of coronavirus

Tõivo Sarmet on Mount Everest.
Tõivo Sarmet on Mount Everest. Source: Estonian Mountaineering Club

Friday saw the unexpected death of Estonian mountaineering pioneer and head of the country's first Mount Everest expedition Tõivo Sarmet. The Estonian Mountaineering Club said that 76-year-old Sarmet died after receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19 for a short time.

Sarmet (born 1944) was a multiple Estonian hiking and ice climbing champion who was also named a master athlete of the Soviet Union in 1991. He completed over 30 long-distance hikes around half of which sported the highest difficulty level.

Tõivo Sarmet's best-known pupils include Raivo Plumer, Ivar Lai, Margus Proos, Heiki Erm, Tarmo Riga and Alar Sikk. He has been a member of the board of the Estonian Hiking Association and was the founder and head of the Estonian Mountaineering Club.

Sarmet has climbed the highest peaks of five continents, two peaks higher than 8,000 meters and four peaks past 7,000 meters in the former Soviet Union. He was one of just ten Estonians to earn the coveted Snow Leopard mountaineering award.

Tõivo Sarmet's best-known achievement was organizing Estonia's own Mount Everest expedition in 2003 that saw Alar Sikk become the first Estonian to climb Chomolungma and hoist the Estonian national flag there.

The first Estonian expeditions to South America and Alaska organized by Sarmet were also of note. Sarmet oversaw Estonian climbers' first internationally acknowledged climbs to peaks above 8,000 meters.

Tõivo Sarmet and Raivo Plumer wrote down their memories in a book called "Everesti päevik" (Everest Diary) in 2005. Two documentaries have been made covering his expeditions.

Sarmet is survived by his wife and three sons.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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