Eleven Deaths in Two Weeks on Mount Everest Amidst Crowds

By Victor Westerkamp

In the last two weeks, 11 people died while scaling the earth’s highest peak, Mount Everest. Most of them are believed to have died from altitude sickness or heart issues caused by the high-stress environment.

The most dangerous part of the trek is the so-called “Death Zone,” above 26,247 feet, or 8000 meters, where conditions are too hazardous for humans to survive for long, according to CNN.

Due to the mountain’s enormous attraction to adventurers worldwide, the leniency of Nepalese authorities issuing permits, and bad weather conditions (only three days this year so far were suitable for climbing) traffic jams have built up, with hundreds of people crushed together on a single track, causing some climbers to stay exposed to the hostile high-altitude environment for a lengthy period of time.

The matter gained international attention after a mountaineer named Rohtash Khileri posted videos on Instagram, showing a long line of people in the frigid cold waiting for their ascension.

Because of the altitude at the final phase of the ascent, from Camp Four at 26,247 feet to the 29,035-foot peak, climbers have just hours to reach the top and come back before they risk their lungs filling with liquid, or pulmonary edema, causing respiratory failure, according to Fox News. Under-experienced rookies can also cause delays, with climbers staying too long in the death zone.

The climbing season has just started, but nearly a dozen people already died. One man fell to his death, while most others died suddenly during or shortly after the climb.

Nepal, as one of the poorest countries in the world, has an economy that leans heavily on revenues from the climbing industry, worth $300 million a year.

The Nepali government has issued 381 permits this year—a record—far too many, according to many seasoned alpinists, who have been warning of the dangers.

One mountaineer, Robin Haynes Fisher from Britain, expressed his concerns about the imminent dangers of too many people making the trek on his Instagram page.

“With a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course, everyone else plays the same waiting game,” he wrote on May 19.

A week later, on May 25, he died while returning from the peak.

View this post on Instagram

Climbed up to camp 3, 7500m but the jet stream had returned closing the summit after only 2 days so I descended to basecamp. Around 100 climbers did summit in those 2 days with sadly 2 deaths, an Indian man found dead in his tent at camp 4 and an Irish climber lost, assumed fallen, on his descent. A go fund me page has been set up for a rescue bid for the Irish climber but it is a well meaning but futile gesture. Condolences to both their friends and families. Both deaths happened above 8000m in the so called death zone where the majority of deaths of foreign climbers happen. Around 700 more people will be looking to summit from Tuesday the 21st onwards. My revised plan, subject to weather that at the moment looks promising, is to return up the mountain leaving basecamp Tuesday the 21st 0230 and, all being well and a lot of luck, arriving on the summit the morning of Saturday the 25th. I will be climbing with my Sherpa, Jangbu who is third on the all time list with an incredible 19 summits. The other 4 members of our team decided to remain on the mountain and are looking to summit on the 21st. My cough had started to return at altitude so I couldn’t wait with them at altitude for the window to open without the risk of physically deteriorating too much. Furthermore as I had missed due to sickness the earlier camp 3 rotation best practice was for me to descend to allow my body to recover from the new altitude high so I could come back stronger. This was not an easy decision as the 13 hours climbing from basecamp to camp 2 in a day was the hardest physical and mental challenge I had ever done, now I have it all to do again. Finally I am hopeful to avoid the crowds on summit day and it seems like a number of teams are pushing to summit on the 21st. With a single route to the summit delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game. #everest #everest2019 #lhotseface

A post shared by Robin (@1c0n0clast22) on

Veteran climber David Morton told CNN, “The major problem is inexperience, not only of the climbers that are on the mountain but also the operators supporting those climbers.” he continued.

“Everest is primarily a very complicated logistical puzzle, and I think when you have a lot of inexperienced operators as well inexperienced climbers along with, particularly, the Nepal government not putting some limitations on the numbers of people, you have a prime recipe for these sorts of situations happening.”

The Nepal Mountaineering Association has announced it will press the government for measures to “control the inexperienced climbers from attempting to scale Everest,” reported Fox.

Mira Acharya, a senior official with Nepal’s tourism department told the New York Times, “Certainly there will be some change in the expedition sector. We are discussing reforming some issues, including setting criteria for every Everest hopeful.”