4 die and about 30 other climbers have become ill with altitude sickness, or are suffering from frostbite.
At least four climbers have perished on Mount Everest in four days, after an Indian mountaineer became the latest to succumb to altitude sickness while descending from the world’s highest peak.
The first person to die was a climbing guide named Phurba Sherpa, on Thursday, who fell as he tried to secure a climbing route for others to follow near the summit. Then a Dutch man died Friday, possibly from a heart attack, after he’d reached Everest’s 29,000-foot peak. On Saturday, an Australian professor, climbing withe her husband, died of altitude sickness. And Sunday, Subash Paul died descending from the peak after his team became lost in a storm. Two others from that team are still missing, and their chances of being found alive are slim.
Some 400 climbers have reached the summit since early May 2016, clambering to climb to the top in the short season when weather is favorable enough to summit the peak. These are the first confirmed deaths this year, and the downhill portion after reaching the peak is when most climbers die.
“Everest is a mountain of extremes,” according to Jon Kedrowski, a geographer and climber who summited Mount Everest in 2012, when 10 climbers died. “At altitude, the body deteriorates on a certain level” he said. Lack of oxygen, exhaustion, extreme cold, and climbing hazards all contribute to the death toll.
The deaths raised concerns over safety standards and management of operators on the increasingly crowded and competitive mountaintop, which was not scaled for two years after 16 guides died in an avalanche in 2014, followed by an earthquake killing 18 the following year.
The Nepal Mountaineering Association said overcrowding and bottlenecks high on the mountain may have contributed to the fatalities. Ang Tshering, of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said on Monday: “This was a man-made disaster that may have been minimised with better management of the teams. The last two disasters on Everest were caused by nature, but not this one.”
More than 250 people have died climbing Mount Everest since 1953, many from altitude-related illnesses.
Profiles of perished climbers
19 May 2016 – Phurba Sherpa
The leader of the Nepal rescue team reported that last Thursday, a member of his crew, Phurba Sherpa, died on the tallest mountain in the world. The 25-year-old guide was fixing a route near the summit when he had an accident and fell, according to Mingma Sherpa, the Nepal rescue team leader who was at the Everest Base Camp.
20 May 2016 – Eric Arnold
Motivational speaker and professional mountain climber, Eric Arnold, a 36-year-old Dutch man, had enough bottled oxygen and climbing partners but complained of feeling weakness on his way back down Mount Everest after a successful summit, according to Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, the owner of Seven Summit Treks.
After suffering from weakness and frostbite, he died Friday near South Col before he was able to get to a lower altitude. A heart attack was suspected.
After last year’s earthquake, Eric had thought hard about whether he should come back again. “I didn’t decide immediately to go back. I waited until my emotions were more stable,” Arnold said. “But Mount Everest is my big childhood dream.”
After four tries, friends told Eric Arnold climbing Everest wasn’t his fate.He died Friday after reaching the top. https://t.co/kpaECFyGCt
— Annie Gowen (@anniegowen) May 22, 2016
21 May 2016 – Maria Strydom
An Australian woman, Maria Strydom, who was also traveling with the Seven Summit Treks, started suffering altitude sickness. She had reached Camp IV, the final camp before the summit.
Maria Strydom, a 34-year-old Australian lecturer at Monash University’s business school in Melbourne, died Saturday afternoon. Strydom’s husband, Rob Gropel, was injured on the way down.
Strydom and her husband’s goal was to climb the highest peaks on the seven continents, according to the university’s website. They climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in Turkey, and Kilamanjaro in Tanzania.
22 May 2016 – Subash Paul
Subash Paul, 44, died at Base Camp II from altitude sickness, according to Wangchu Sherpa, Managing Director of Trekking Camp Nepal.
Paul was part of a team, consisting of four Indian climbers and four Sherpas, that also saw two members — Paresh Chandra Nath and Goutam Ghosh — go missing Saturday night.
“It is not clear what happened. We believe the weather suddenly deteriorated at some point, and the team lost direction,” Wanchu Sherpa said.
An official at Nepal Tourism Department, Gyanendra Shrestha, said a helicopter search was not possible because the climbers were too high up the mountain.