An increase in climbers has led to a higher than normal death count this climbing season.
Tomorrow will mark the 66th Anniversary of Sir
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first summit of Mount Everest. In the years
that have followed their success, Everest has become a beacon for those wishing
to conquer the highest point in the world. Climbers now pay large fees for the
privilege of attempting to reach the top and the continued ease of access has
led to problems of its own.
The climbing season for Everest is short; most climbers aim
for summit attempts during the month of May. However, this year’s season has
also been deadlier than some previous years. As of May 28th, eleven
climbers have perished attempting the climb.
As reported by the New York Times:
The problem hasn’t been avalanches, blizzards or high winds. Veteran climbers and industry leaders blame having too many people on the mountain, in general, and too many inexperienced climbers, in particular.
Fly-by-night adventure companies are taking up untrained climbers who pose a risk to everyone on the mountain.
The situation is only more complicated by the hunger and
greed of the Nepalese government. An increase in climbers results in an increase
in tourism revenue.
While the appeal of climbing Everest will probably never diminish, the problems associated with an increase in persons attempting the climb won’t decrease either. In addition to this year’s deaths, pollution and refuse have become a common problem on the mountain. Its remote location and altitude make it difficult for cleanup to occur on a regular basis. The New York Times also stated that:
…earlier this year, government investigators uncovered profound problems with some of the oxygen systems used by climbers. Climbers said cylinders were found to be leaking, exploding or being improperly filled on a black market.
Oxygen is critical at the top of Everest and several of the
deaths this season were a direct result of oxygen running out at crucial times.
This was exacerbated by long wait times at bottlenecks on the climb.
Pressure to summit, along the increase in the number of climbers, has also led to decency towards fellow climbers breaking down.
Around the same time, Rizza Alee, an 18-year-old climber from Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, was making his way up the mountain. He said he was stunned by how little empathy people had for those who were struggling.
I saw some people like they had no emotions,” he said. “I asked people for water and no one gave me any. People are really obsessed with the summit. They are ready to kill themselves for the summit.
Everest is a dangerous place. There is a reason that anything
over 8000 meters (26,247 feet) is referred to as the death zone. That will not
keep individuals from trying to reach the top, especially when the Nepalese
government is unwilling to limit the number of permits each year.