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Culture and society, Current affairs

Eight deaths on Everest, the most in four years

As climbing season draws to a close, Everest experiences its most deaths in four years.

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Updated: May 27, 2019

As the Everest climbing season for this year draws to a close, with just one day left for mountaineers to make a push for the top of the world, it has recorded eight deaths, the most in the past four years, on the mountain.

British climber Robin Haynes Fisher died on Saturday due to altitude sickness at 8,600 metres, while descending from the summit, taking the death toll on the mountain to eight, according to officials. On Friday, Nepali climbing guide from Kailali, Dhruba Bista, fell ill on the Camp III and was transported by a helicopter to the base camp.

Gyanendra Shrestha, the government liaison officer, told the Post over the phone that the last climb on Everest is scheduled for Monday.

There are around 25 climbers waiting for the final ascent, he said.

“At the Khumbu Icefall, which lies at an altitude of 5,486 metres on the slopes of Everest, ice has started to melt and the ladders are getting dislodged, indicating the end of the spring climbing season,” said Shrestha. “People from the Everest base camp have also returned with only a few of them left.”

After the end of the season, when officials will sit down for records–this has been a record year, some crucial issues are likely to take the centre stage, including what many say “traffic jam” on the top of the world.

“There was a record-breaking summit on May 22 with at least 220 climbers reaching the peak,” said Shrestha.

On May 22, crowds of climbers had to wait for hours largely due to a “traffic jam” near the summit, above the mountain’s highest camp at 8,000 metres, which resulted in the deaths of Anjali S Kulkarni from India and Donald Lynn Cash from the United States. Both died while descending from the summit.

Their deaths were attributed primarily to a long queue of both ascending and descending climbers, forcing many to wait for hours.

It was the longest single-day weather window of 24 hours to summit Everest, leading to 250 climbers vying for the summit. More than 200 made it to the top as they continued until 3pm the next day.

Kulkarni, 54, from Mumbai, died above 8,000 metres, in what is known as the Death Zone, as she was descending after reaching the summit. Cash, too, died while descending from the summit, 15 metres below the Hillary Step, which stands at 8,790 metres.

Kalpana Das and Nihal Bagwan, both Indian, who reached the summit on Thursday, died while descending the mountain.

On May 16, Irish mountaineer Seamus Lawless went missing from the Everest balcony area. His expedition agency had launched a search mission but was unable to locate him. He has been presumed dead. Last week, Indian climber Ravi Thakar died at Camp IV while returning from the summit.

In 2016 and 2017, Everest claimed lives of six and five climbers respectively.

Last year, there were five deaths on the mountain.

On April 18, 2014, there was an avalanche near Everest Base Camp which killed 16 Nepali guides. Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies and the remaining three were never recovered as search and rescue operations were called off citing “too much risk”.

In 2015, quake-triggered avalanches killed 20 climbers.

This year, the Everest season started on May 15 and had only two windows–consisting of six summit days.

The Department of Tourism had cleared 381 climbers to climb the world’s tallest peak this season. More than 800 people, those with climbing permits and their guides, were on Everest this season.

“We have expected that more than 500 people have reached the summit this year,” said Shrestha. Details are expected to come after a few weeks.

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The Kathmandu Post
About the Author: The Kathmandu Post was Nepal’s first privately owned English broadsheet daily and is currently the country's leading English-language newspaper.

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