There are some places that you expect to encounter a lengthy queue, like the bank, or Home Affairs.
If you told me that climbing Mount Everest would include such a wait, I’d have told you the altitude was getting to you, but this season’s climbers talk of a nightmare atop the world’s highest peak.
Canadian filmmaker Elia Saikaly recently climbed Everest for the third time, and has vowed never to return. According to the Telegraph, Saikaly summed up his hike in three words – “Death. Carnage. Chaos.”
“Do I think I’ll go back? I don’t think so. Not after this season… It was pretty horrific.
“When we left at 9.30pm it was very alarming as within 20 minutes we saw two Sherpas had brought down a deceased climber.
“Within 45 minutes an Indian climber was brought down who was delirious and screaming and yelling which are the signs of acute mountain sickness.”
Roughly three hours into the climb, his group was forced to walk over another dead mountaineer.
“It was incredibly bizarre… every single climber making their way to the summit had to step over this person – absolutely devastating.”
At some points, the bodies were simply left at the side of the path up to the top. The arrow below points to the body of a dead climber:
The death toll for the 2019 season stands at 11, after 62-year-old American attorney Christopher John Kulish died yesterday.
Saikaly says that there is little time for reflection in the pursuit to reach the top:
“You are climbing this very famous iconic obstacle and just beneath you is a climber’s body, lifeless and lying there and you don’t know what to do or feel but you know you have to move or else you could be the next victim, ” Mr Saikaly said.
“This is your dream… and we all reached the summit and most of us didn’t want to touch the highest point on earth because there were so many people up there.”
Thankfully, efforts are being made to reduce the incredible trash (and human waste) problem, but the mountain is clearly suffering under the strain of so many climbers.
CNN says that more experienced mountaineers talk of a lack of experience, as well as the growing commercialisation of expeditions, as the reasons behind the rising death toll and backlog:
During the week beginning May 20, crowds of climbers became stuck in a queue to the summit, above the mountain’s highest camp at 8,000 meters (26,247 feet). The summit of Mount Everest is 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) high.
Most people can only spend a matter of minutes at the summit without extra oxygen supplies, and the area where mountaineers have been delayed is known to many as the “death zone.”
Mountain guide Adrian Ballinger told CNN many see Everest as the “ultimate challenge” but the problem he has seen is the “lower level of experience of the climbers trying to come here and also of the companies that are trying to offer services on the mountain.”
He continued, “That lack of experience, both with the commercial operators and the climbers themselves, is causing these images we see where people make bad decisions, get themselves in trouble up high and end up having unnecessary fatalities.”
Many have called for greater regulation on operators that take groups up the mountain. Whilst the Tibetan government has put limitations on the numbers it allows up its side of the mountain, the Nepalese government has yet to do so:
Veteran climber David Morton added his thoughts:
“The major problem is inexperience, not only of the climbers that are on the mountain but also the operators supporting those climbers,” he explained. “Everest is primarily a very complicated logistical puzzle and I think when you have a lot of inexperienced operators as well inexperienced climbers along with, particularly, the Nepal government not putting some limitations on the numbers of people, you have a prime recipe for these sorts of situations happening.”
Once again, our greed has got the better of us.
Since 1922, when numbers were first recorded, more than 200 people have died on the peak. When you consider that the 2019 season accounts for 11 of those, and there’s time still to go, you get a sense of just how dire the past few months have been.
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