The climb to the summit of Mount Everest in the Himalayas has always been a dangerous one, but the last week, embodied in one viral image, has been a particularly deadly stretch atop the world’s highest mountain.
In a photo (above) released by climber Nirmal Purja’s Project Possible expedition, dozens of bundled-up climbers line a ridge near Everest’s summit, huddled against the wind and cold awaiting a chance to stand atop the mountain’s highest point. It’s a startling sight for those familiar with Everest climbing — the lineup represents a treacherous trend atop the mountain.
This overcrowding, prompted by a brief window of good weather and a record number of government-issued climbing permits, has proven deadly. Robin Fisher, a British climber whose death was reported Saturday, was the 10th climber in a seven-day span to die near Everest’s overcrowded summit. American climber Don Cash, 55, was among those who perished atop the mountain in the past week.
Several of the climbers are dying near the mountain’s summit, in Everest’s so-called death zone, because there’s not enough oxygen in the atmosphere at those levels. As a result, climbers without supplemental oxygen bottles and those who run out of oxygen while waiting to summit face possibly fatal altitude sickness.
Sherpa guides, who can summit multiple times during a trip while aiding other climbers, have complained that the traffic jam in the death zone has become the most serious problem for climbers in the spring season.
The overall death toll for 2019 stands at 10, notable for a year that hasn’t involved a major natural disaster like an avalanche or storm. It’s already the fourth-deadliest climbing season in the history of climbing on Everest, according to Outside Magazine.
And many are discussing 2019 as the most-crowded year atop the mountain. Nepal issued a record 381 climbing permits for this season, 35 more than last season. That came following China’s announcement that it would limit permits for fear of overcrowding the mountain.