Why Are So Many People Dying Climbing Mount Everest This Year?
A Colorado man became the eleventh person to die climbing Mount Everest this year. Chris Kulish died on Monday while descending from the mountain, although further circumstances of his death are unclear. As noted by the BBC, over the past two decades, the average annual death rate for climbers on the tallest peak in the world has remained pretty steady at six. So why the increase?
The Nepalese government issued a record number of climbing permits for Everest this season — 381 — which allow around 600 people to embark on the perilous expedition (The Chinese government also issue permits for their side of the mountain but do so in far smaller numbers and according to expert climbers it’s not as good an experience, apparently). Overcrowding has been a major issue this year, as captured in this amazing and horrifying image.
If you use this image it would be appreciated if you could inform me & credit the photo @nimsdai Project Possible also please make a donation to the go fund me campaign.Promotion of #ProjectPossible would also be most welcome.https://t.co/wEYu8OHRwE, https://t.co/FVAZrnDSwI pic.twitter.com/eSZRCIsApb— Nimsdai (@nimsdai) May 24, 2019
Maybe at this point we should stop climbing Everest? https://t.co/NKQaltD3y2— Jana G. Pruden (@jana_pruden) May 27, 2019
There’s an incredibly limited period in which climbers have peak conditions to trek up Everest, and many climbers missed that. Weather has also been shakier than usual, in part thanks to the after-effects of Cyclone Fani, which hit India and Bangladesh hard. The Nepalese government even suspended all mountain activities for two days because of it.
On 23rd May, more than 250 climbers took to the summit before peak conditions disappeared, with some waiting hours to get to the top because of the queue, forcing many to go through oxygen faster than planned. The BBC notes that the number of inexperienced climbers making the trek had an increase in recent years. You don’t have to qualify in any way to climb Everest.
A piece in The New York Times focused on the ‘selfie culture’ that has taken over Everest, as climbers sought to share their bragging rights through the perfect image. I’m hesitant myself to focus too much on this element because come on, wouldn’t you take selfies if you climbed Everest? The real issue is a government seeking to commercialize the mountain and not minding who they take money from to do so.
Climbing Everest is the ultimate dream for many climbers and it seems plenty of people are willing to take advantage of that: From black market equipment sellers with faulty oxygen tanks to lower-cost operators willing to take on anyone with the cash to government officials who will overcrowd this perilous space at the expense of people’s lives. Taking the trek to Everest is dangerous enough when you have everything in your favour and there are always those who die doing so. Their bodies still line the mountain, to the point where more recognizable corpses act as marker points on the trail (seriously, be careful googling that). This will always be a risk that the brave and foolhardy will take, but that experience should be made as safe and as rare as possible. We also require a serious rethink of how we view this mountain and how we have fetishized the experience of paying exorbitant amounts of money to step over trash and corpses to get to the top.
The Nepalese government has rejected requests to limit the number of permits issued.
Maybe stay at home and read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer instead.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.
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