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‘Dream of Everest’ Claims life of Another Climber

By Tiffany Meier

An American climber died while descending from the summit of Mount Everest, bringing the death toll up to nine this year as more and more people chase the “Dream of Everest.”

Christopher John Kulish, 61, made it up the 29,035-foot peak from the normal Southeast Ridge route in the morning of May 27, but died shortly after descending from the summit, a Nepalese official told Reuters.

Most of the deaths this year have been caused by exhaustion and tiredness, made worse as a result of delays from overcrowding, according to the report.

File image of Mount Everest taken from the village of Tembuche in the Kumbh region of north-eastern Nepal
File image of Mount Everest taken from the village of Tembuche in the Kumbh region of north-eastern Nepal on April 19, 2015. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

On Saturday, a British climber, Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, collapsed and died on the descent from the summit, in the area with low oxygen levels known as the “death zone,” according to USA Today.

“I cannot believe what I saw up there. Death. Carnage. Chaos. Lineups. Dead bodies on the route and in tents at camp 4,” Canadian filmmaker Elias Saikaly, who scaled the summit for the third time, and lived to tell the tale, wrote in an Instagram post.

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Summit!!! . So that was completely insane! I stood on top of the world for the 3rd time on the morning of May 23rd, 2019. More importantly, we all made to the summit and back, safe. . I have a lot to say and share. I cannot believe what I saw up there. Death. Carnage. Chaos. Lineups. Dead bodies on the route and in tents at camp 4. People who I tried to turn back who ended up dying. People being dragged down. Walking over bodies. Everything you read in the sensational headlines all played out on our summit night. . On a more positive note: The 4 Arab women, totally crushed it up there. How you climb is as important that you climb and they all graciously made it to the top of the world. . I shot it all. And I mean all of it. The ‘Dream of Everest’ is going to be a heck of a ride of a documentary. I pushed myself as hard as I could and never stopped filming. I even jumped up on the knife edge ridge to get the shots of the team on the Hillary Step. It was crazy, over 200 people climbing that night, but totally under control and I can’t thank @sherpapk enough for keeping up with the shooting pace and honestly, for keeping me alive by being my safety rigger and climbing partner. I love you man. . To all the Sherpas, my personal Sherpa team, the guides at Madison Mountaineering – all of this is possible because of you. We are nothing without you and all summits are possible because of you. ???????? . I’m down. I’m safe. And there is a lot more to come! . Totally wild adventure! So grateful to be back at basecamp. . @monakshahab @nellyattar @joyceazzam7s @alharthynoor – SO PROUD of what you’ve all accomplished. No one supported us with this documentary. No one. And we made it happen. Thank you for trusting me with your stories. The best is yet to come! . #Everest #Summit #topoftheworld #8848 #Everest2019

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“People who I tried to turn back who ended up dying. People being dragged down. Walking over bodies. Everything you read in the sensational headlines all played out on our summit night,” he added.

“The early morning light had revealed the gateway to the summit of Everest and in parallel a human being who had lost his life. Here we all were, chasing a dream and beneath our very feet there was a lifeless soul. Is this what Everest has become?” he wrote in another Instagram post.

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High on the Hillary Step on May 23rd, video camera in hand, just beneath the top of the world. . We passed over 60 people during the night and arrived to the south summit just after sunrise. The skies suddenly opened up, the mist and cloud cover burned away and all of the splendor and glory of the world beneath our feet became visible. The Hillary Step was in plain sight and our team of climbers approached the final crux beneath the top of the world. . The sub zero temperatures and low oxygen level in the atmosphere had taken their toll on all of us. Minds hypoxic, extremities nearly numb, we all pressed on through the life or death situation. . The early morning light had revealed the gateway to the summit of Everest and in parallel a human being who had lost his life. Here we all were, chasing a dream and beneath our very feet there was a lifeless soul. Is this what Everest has become? . As I documented the team climbing the iconic step, my mind raced and empathized with every person who struggled to stay alive while undoubtedly questioning their own humanity, ethics and integrity. . This poor human being perched 7000ft above the Western CWM for everyone to observe was a reminder of each of our own mortality. Was this the ‘Dream of Everest’ we all imagined? . My heart bled for the family and loved ones and at the same time I was conscious of the necessity to continue to move. At nearly 9000m above sea level, there is no choice but to carry on. . Who is responsible here? The individuals? The companies? The Government? Is it time to enforce new rules? Will things ever change? What’s the solution here? . With great sadness, as the cues pushed onwards and upwards, so did we, as did over 200 people that day. . I deeply apologize for the sensitivity of this post, but I feel we have a responsibility to inform aspiring future climbers of the seriousness of this undertaking while creating a dialogue around how to make safer, more responsible and more ethical choices with how we approach climbing to the top of the world. . To those that lost their lives this season may their souls Rest In Peace. . #Everest #everest2019 #LineUps #HillaryStep #Tragedy ???? by @sherpapk

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“This poor human being perched 7000 ft above the Western CWM for everyone to observe was a reminder of each of our own mortality. Was this the ‘Dream of Everest’ we all imagined?” he added.

“My heart bled for the family and loved ones and at the same time I was conscious of the necessity to continue to move. At nearly 9000 m above sea level, there is no choice but to carry on,” he wrote.

At the end of the lengthy post, Saikaly apologized for the sensitivity of the post, but added that “I feel we have a responsibility to inform aspiring future climbers of the seriousness of this undertaking while creating a dialogue around how to make safer, more responsible and more ethical choices with how we approach climbing to the top of the world.”

In this photo taken on April 29, 2018, mountaineers walk near camp one of Mount Everest, as they prepare to ascend on the south face from Nepal.
In this photo taken on April 29, 2018, mountaineers walk near camp one of Mount Everest, as they prepare to ascend on the south face from Nepal. (Phunjo Lama/AFP/Getty Images)

“This is not going to improve,” Lukas Furtenbach, a guide, told the New York Times. He added that he recently relocated his climbers to the Chinese side of Everest because of overcrowding in Nepal.

“There’s a lot of corruption in the Nepali government,” he said. “They take whatever they can get.”

This year, Nepal issued 381 climbing permits, a record high, despite complaints about safety issues, according to multiple reports.

Other climbers say the rise in the death toll is a result of inexperience.

“You have to qualify to do the Ironman,” Alan Arnette told the New York Times. “But you don’t have to qualify to climb the highest mountain in the world? What’s wrong with this picture?”

mount everest climbers
Mountaineers ascend toward the summit of Mount Everest, up the south face from Nepal on May 16, 2018. (Gesman Tamang/AFP/Getty Images)

“You look at a circle of mountain peaks above you and think, ‘What am I doing here?'” Dohring, an American doctor, told the New York Times.

At 62-years-old, he had a lot of climbing experience behind him, yet he still prepared extensively for the climb, which cost him over $70,000.

Even with all his preparation, which included sleeping in a tent at home that simulated high-altitude conditions, he wasn’t prepared for what he was going to face on the actual mountain.

“I was not prepared to see sick climbers being dragged down the mountain by Sherpas or the surreal experience of finding dead bodies,” he told the New York Times.

This undated photograph shows unidentified mountaineers as they walk past the Hillary Step whilst pushing for the summit of Mount Everest as they climb the south face from Nepal.
This undated photograph shows unidentified mountaineers as they walk past the Hillary Step whilst pushing for the summit of Mount Everest as they climb the south face from Nepal. (Tshering Sherpa/AFP/Getty Images)