A Canadian who made great strides – literally and figuratively – in the service of information technology lost his life while doing so.

Ottawa native Sean Egan, 63, died today after leaving a Mount Everest base camp (located at a height of 17,500 ft). Egan had been suffering from a respiratory infection and was making his way to medical attention. (If Egan had made it to the mountain’s summit he would have been the oldest Canadian to do so).

Egan, who taught human kinetics, led a team of 20 climbers from Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa on the Everest expedition. The team arrived at the base camp on Feb. 25 this year.

Their mission was to set up a wireless network with a satellite link back to Ottawa.

For more than two months Egan and his team – plugged away under harshest conditions imaginable – to set up a state-of-the art network of wired and wireless laptops (including rugged laptops designed for severe conditions).

They completed the project last week, according to Tim Redpath, a spokesperson for the expedition.

Egan took a turn for the worse around that time. “Sean had been feeling unwell at base camp for about a week,” said Redpath. “He decided to head down the mountain, acclimatize and get better quicker. Unfortunately he had a cardiac arrest.”

But the network Egan set up with his team lives on as a testimonial to his heroic efforts.

It allows researchers to swap files and back up data on other laptops. It also includes a video conference unit that enables visual communication with researchers in Ottawa and Toronto.

The Everest base camp network will be linked via an ISDN satellite phone to a disaster recovery site at the offices of Ottawa-based Kanatek Technologies Inc., an independent storage integrator.

There the data will be backed up and archived, a Kanatek statement said. More information on the expedition is available at this site