Monday, 27 May 2019

Mt. Everest - what are the reasons for the death of so many people in a short time in this season?

Crowded mt. Everest. markhorrell.com
Long line on Everest mountainwilderness.org
Of late the media world over  is focusing on this Spring Everest climbing season - ''May'' and the traffic jam on the route to the summit at higher levels above the base camp. For centuries man has been fascinated by the tall mountains and the peaks that are doting them. Native American Indians revered them  and attached divinity to them.  Even in the modern time man's fascination for tall peaks  and his desire to scale them has not diminished; on the contrary, it is on the increase.  Among the tallest peaks in the world, Mt. Everest, no doubt, attracts the attention of outdoor adventure activists and mountaineers. Quite tempting is the serene-looking and snow clad Mt. Everest. Its beauty  is so irresistible and tempting, every year lots of people across the globe come to the Himalayan region to stand with pride atop the roof of the world unmindful of personal risk and prohibitive  expedition costs.  Successful climber gets a real reward worth his toil and passion - an amazing, soul-stirring view of the surroundings you will never get on any peak. From the tallest roof you  can see an expansive vista of the mighty Himalayas, from Geology point of view, the world's youngest mountain chain.  As for the jubilant climbers, most of them will come out victorious as part of the expedition, but  for some, it is the end of their life on the higher slopes of the mountains - a veritable grave in the sublime beauty of the mountain.  
joejourneys.com
Undaunted by death of climbers before and the risk involved in such adventure,  courageous people   become prone to  the lure of the majestic peaks sticking out in to the sky. Until a few years ago, among roughly 4000 people, only 600 made it to the top and about 250 climbers lost their lives on the higher reach because of dangerous weather conditions, rock falls avalanches, etc
Since 1990 the percentage of successful assault on Everest has gone up manifold from less than 20% to 67%.  Thanks to good planning, well- charted routes (unlike 1960s), fixed ropes laid out by Sherpas before-hand, availability of  better, lighter gear, accurate forecasts and more guides.  Consequently, these factors have reduced the  risks considerably and Mt Everest has become less adversary unlike before. An interesting fact is  this season, the Nepal route will also see more women than ever before, with 76 female climbers attempting the feat. 
Long line on Mt. Everest. .sfgate.com
In spite of availability of modern, high-tech mountaineering gear,  the risk is very much there, particularly for people with inadequate training in high-altitude mountain climbing. That the mortality rate has not gone down in the past several years is true. However, this year, the mortality rate is much higher than last year. It is billed as one of the deadliest climbing seasons, and it is not due to high winds or blizzards, avalanches or gaping crevasses, or deadly ice fall.  In 2014  climbing season when a party of climbers were ready for the further assault, a large chunk of ice fall triggered a dangerous avalanche killing 16 prospective submitters. The moot question is: What are the reasons for so many deaths on Everest in such a short span of time in this year?

We need to consider the following facts:

01. Between two routes available to reach Everest, the snow trail from Nepal is much safer and more popular than the route from the side of Tibet. The former route was first taken by Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay in 1953.

02. The route from Nepal being a familiar one, lots of prospective climbers prefer this one to the trail from Tibet.

03. It is easy to get permit from the Nepalese government to scale Everest.  There was a huge traffic  buildup in the summit after 380 permits were issued this season as compared to last year’s 365.

04. It is not so in the case of route from Tibet as China controls this region.

05. This year, the Spring climbing season has seen worst mishaps - ten in a short time. According to one Arizona doctor, '' It was  like  a zoo. Death   on an unruly, overcrowded Everest.''

06. The Nepalese government issues too many permits and this causes over crowding at higher elevations. At higher altitude above 29000 feet altruism is put to work and there is no room for error. It is just one foot away from death.

07. The teams had to wait for long hours at oxygen starved  higher altitude. This means the climbers are prone to severe  frost bite, altitude sickness and other health problems. Pulmonary edima is a bad one. Further long wait may also result in verbal abuses and a  may lead to tense situation.
  
08. With limited  oxygen canisters to cover the oxygen-depleted zone, for the climbers,  a delay of an hour or two can make the difference between life and death.
cartoonstock.com
09. There are only short weather windows available on the high mountains this year  and every team was in a hurry to get to the top under favourable weather. Climbers totally depend on the window duration of suitable climbing weather. But, still it is unpredictable. This year the weather has been unfriendly and the Fani cyclone on the east coast of India had some impact on the high mountins creating heavy winds.
cartoonstock.com
10. The safest snow trail is clogged with countless teams waiting for their turn to make to  the top and correspondingly, many teams after their successful ascent, try hard to get down  to the safest  terrain when the weather window  remains safe.


11.This year May 22  happened to be the busiest day on the world's highest mountain and the teams moved  up at a snail's pace, risking  frostbite, altitude sickness and, of course, altercation.


12. According to Peak Promotion,  the overcrowding had congested the route from Camp IV to the top.

13. Caught in the traffic for several hours, many climbers suffered from exhaustion, dehydration and faced  near- death situation. The long wait had an impact on their physical and mental well-being.

14. This year more deaths occurred to people who were held up in long lines on the last leg - 1000 feet or so of the climb, unable to ascend and descend fast enough to replenish their oxygen supply.
This year, the traffic jam has gotten so bad, many climbers  risk their lives by standing in the slow moving line. Climbers were pushing and shoving  to take selfies.

15. Besides over-crowding on Everest,  the availability of  fewer weather windows at high altitude has complicated the successful ascents and descents. Sometimes,  the window can stretch for a long time - as long as two weeks and sometimes it can be a short -1 or 2 days as was the case this week,  This year  on 22-24 May many climbers tried their luck to summit the peak due to Clement weather. 
  
16. Fly-by-night adventure companies, whose motive is to make fast buck, take in many poorly trained  climbers who pose a risk not only to them, but also to others in the team.

17. The other causes are poor crowd management, unlimited permits, shoddy government regulation and corruption. 
You may refer to my early 
post: http://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2018/06/assault-of-mt-everest-and-challehge-of.html
 https://indianspectator.com/trending/mount-everest-why-there-is-so-much-crowd-lately/
https://www.news18.com/news/world/mount-everest-braces-for-record-year-amid-overcrowding-safety-fears-2136687.html