16 Deaths at Mt. Everest This Season as ‘Traffic Jam’ Creates Lethal Conditions

By Zachary Stieber

Five deaths this week from a “traffic jam” at the peak of Mt. Everest brought the toll to 16 this climbing season, according to expedition leaders.

Ing Landgraf, 65, of Austria, died on May 23 while he was climbing down from the summit, Subash Shrestha, an official at Himalaya Vision Pvt Ltd, told the Himalayan Times.

Nihal Bagwan, 27, of India, also died this week, according to Babu Sherpa, managing director at Peak Promotion Pvt Ltd.

“The 27-year-old climber died at Camp IV after he fell ill near balcony area while returning from the summit of Mt Everest,” Sherpa said.

At least half of the 16 who have died this climbing season were Indian natives, including two other deaths this week: 49-year-old Kalpana Das, who also died while climbing down from the summit, and 54-year-old Anjali Kulkarni, who was in Camp IV on Wednesday night when she died.

Donald Lynn Cash, an American from Utah, also died while returning from the summit this week.

Dave Roskelley, a Utah resident who reached the summit of Mt. Everest in 2013, said that he spoke with Cash before the man traveled to the mountain.

“We were able to give him advice before he left,” Roskelley told Fox 13.

He said conditions seem to have worsened this year, citing his own experience while noting the danger near the top.

“When I was there in ’13, we sat for about 45 minutes waiting for people to come up. It’s kind of a first come, first served. It’s really difficult up there,” he said. “You’re overcoming cold. You’re overcoming a lot of your own fears. The lack of oxygen is really difficult on your body.”

Traffic Jam

According to AFP, Nepal issued 381 permits for the spring climbing season, a record number. They each cost $11,000.

Weather interfered with many plans, creating a short time period for people to climb to the top of Everest, according to Ang Tsering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. The resulting jam created dangerous conditions.

“Spending a long time above the death zone increases the risk of frostbite, altitude sickness, and even death,” he said.

Bagwan was stuck in traffic for over half a day.

“He was stuck in the traffic for more than 12 hours and was exhausted. Sherpa guides carried him down to Camp 4 but he breathed his last there,” said Keshav Paudel of Peak Promotion.

Kulkami also got caught up in the jam.

“She had to wait for a long time to reach the summit and descend,” Thupden Sherpa told AFP. “She couldn’t move down on her own and died as Sherpa guides brought her down.”

On Wednesday alone, more than 200 people tried to reach the summit, causing a delay of more than two hours.

“Over 200 climbers including high-altitude climbing guides headed from the South Col to the summit point early this morning after they found a second weather window to attempt to stand atop the roof of the world,” Gyanendra Shrestha, a liaison officer at the Everest base camp, told the Himalayan Times from the base camp.

“Everyone seems in a hurry to reach the summit point when the weather is clear. The second summit window may last for the next two days.”

In addition to the record-high 381 climbers, more than 500 Sherpas were climbing during the spring season.