Last night an American climber died on Mount Everest, taking this year's death toll to 11. Two Irish climbers have also died this week making the summit. It has been one of the deadliest climbing seasons in recent memory. People die every year on Everest (1977 is the last year there were no deaths) but fatalities have doubled this year. There is a reason for this; strange as it may sound, the mountain is too crowded.
A photo from climber Nirmal Purja shows the extent of the problem. The picture is of an area known as the "death zone", a narrow ridge leading to the summit. Above 8,000 metres, the average person takes in 30% of the oxygen they normally would. This would lead to becoming weak and having the inability to think straight and struggle making decisions, especially under stress, so climbers carry oxygen bottles. Purja estimates that there were 320 people waiting to get to the summit while he was there
All 320 climbers would have had to share the same safety line which was not ideal, as one American climber found out. Ed Dohring told CNN about how he had to step around a woman who had died. That is the reality of Everest. Many people are unaware that because of how treacherous it is to recover bodies, most who die on the mountain are left there. It is estimated that there are 250 bodies on the mountain, some even used as guide markers . Most grim of all, is Rainbow Valley. The general code of practice for a body on the mountain is to push them out of the way of the main climbing route and cut their ropes. This has led to the Rainbow Valley. The name comes from all the different colours of jackets and clothing of the dead mountaineers.
There is only a certain amount of time it is possible to make the summit each year, around a week before the jetstream kicks back in, where the winds will reach nearly 200mph. As well as that, from June, it is monsoon season. This means there is a very small window around the end of May where people can summit the mountain.
A combination of this and the inexperienced climbers on the mountain have led to the heightened danger. There is such an amount of companies offering to take people up, that anyone can go, no matter their experience.
Fatima Deryan, an experienced Lebanese mountaineer, was making her way to the summit recently when less experienced climbers started collapsing in front of her. Temperatures were dropping to -30 Celsius. Oxygen tanks were running low, and roughly 150 people were packed together, clipped to the same safety line. Deryan said:
A lot of people were panicking, worrying about themselves — and nobody thinks about those who are collapsing, It is a question of ethics. We are all on oxygen. You figure out that if you help, you are going to die.