Mount Everest is not open every day. The summit of the highest mountain in the world can only be reached in a specific time window – namely, when the weather is right, when the snowfall and the winds are not too strong. The chances are greatest in May, sometimes only a few days. The teams, some of whom are already waiting weeks in the base camp and the higher camps, set off for them.
This year, the season started delayed. There are usually seven to twelve so-called summit days – until this Friday there were only five. On Wednesday, therefore, there was a crowd rush: More than 200 climbers took the 8848 meter high summit in attack. Below the finish, there were hours of waiting time at bottlenecks – and at a dangerous level. The teams risked frostbite and altitude sickness.
A photo of the British Nirmal Purja shows the queue of waiting climbers against a blue sky. The former soldier wants to reach with his Project Possible the 14 highest mountains in the world in just seven months. On Wednesday he made the Everest summit at 5:30 – he estimated the number of climbers there at about 320.
Unlike for Purja, the rise and fall since Wednesday have been fatal for six men and women. Observers said some of the deaths may be related to too many mountaineers attempting to climb. Also on Thursday, more than 120 climbers made their way to the top.
On Wednesday and Thursday, independently of one another, a 55-year-old American, two Indian women aged 49 and 54, and a 27-year-old Indian died descending from the top of the 8000's. All four had suffered from exhaustion, according to reports from Sherpas.
The 27-year-old had put on the Everest “more than twelve hours in a traffic jam,” said the tour operator Peak Promotion. Sherpas accompanied the exhausted young man to Camp 4, where he had his last breath. On Friday, the death of a 65-year-old Austrian traveling on the less traveled section of the Tibetan side became known, as well as a 33-year-old Nepalese mountain guide collapsing with a group on the rise.
“In 2019, we hear horror stories about climbing attempts that take 10, 12 or even 14 hours from the South Col to the summit,” writes Everest chronicler Alan Arnette on his website. “Due to the traffic jams, the return to the south saddle takes another six hours – that's 20 hours, that's crazy.” The southern saddle, where most of the last camp is pitched below the summit, is located at 8000 meters altitude on the southeast ridge, on him the mountaineers have to run to the summit one behind the other and can not overtake.
The previous week, an Irishman had already crashed and an Indian was found dead in his tent. In total, 16 climbers have been killed or are missing in the Nepalese part of the Himalayas since the beginning of the climbing season in March. There are seven Indians.
For the ascent permit for Everest from Nepal, foreign mountaineers pay the equivalent of around 9,000 euros. This time, 375 were granted – as many as in previous years. Last year, there were five deaths on Everest, with an average of five to ten people per year dying on the mountain.
Records and Elisabeth Revol was also up
Record numbers have also been set this year: Nepali Kami Rita reached the summit on Tuesday for the 24th time, breaking his own record of most ascents for the second time in one week. Last week, 47-year-old Saray Khumalo from South Africa reached the summit – as the first black African woman. This was her fourth attempt.
Meanwhile, the team of French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol announced that she had climbed Mount Everest and another eight-thousander in the Himalayas in quick succession. “She made it to the summit of Everest yesterday and climbed the Lhotse today,” her team told AFP. Revol had to be rescued last year during an expedition to the Pakistani Nanga Parbat. Your Polish companion died.
Since the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, more than 5,000 people have made it to the top of the mountain on the border between Nepal and the Tibet administered by China. Several hundred, however, died in the attempt.
In the video: The Mount Everest Problem – Death in the Himalayas