Highest Strangeness: Everest Excesses & Risks

EnolaGaia

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NOTE: This extended discussion has been moved from the "WTF" thread in Chat into its own thread.

This photo (dated 22 May) completely blew my mind ...

The notion of having to wait in a queue to stand on Everest's summit is surreal enough, but the idea this waiting probably contributed to two deaths elevates it to 'WTF' status ...

mt-everest-queue-052219.jpg

Everest traffic jam creates lethal conditions for climbers

Two mountaineers have died on Mount Everest after crowds of people became stuck in a queue leading to the summit of the world's highest mountain.

Indian climber Anjali Kulkarni, 55, died on her way back from climbing to the summit of Mount Everest Wednesday, her son Shantanu Kulkarni told CNN. She had become stuck in the "traffic jam" above camp four, which, at 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), is the final camp before the summit.

American mountaineer Donald Lynn Cash, 55, also died Wednesday after fainting from high altitude sickness while descending from the summit, according to the Nepalese expedition company Pioneer Adventure Pvt. Ltd.

Climber Nirmal Purja posted a picture on Instagram of the heavy human traffic on the mountain Wednesday, showing a dense trail of climbers huddling on an exposed ridge to the summit. He added that there were roughly 320 people in the queue to the top of the mountain in an area known as the "death zone." ...
FULL STORY: https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/24/asia/everest-climbers-intl/index.html
 
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escargot

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hunck

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blessmycottonsocks

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But, the WTF reaction is certainly merited here.
It wasn't so very long ago that scaling Everest had a Herculean and heroic mystique about it. The sight of hundreds of climbers queuing for their couple of minutes (and obligatory selfie) on top of the world, kinda destroys that, despite the queue being in the "death zone" rather than at a theme park.
 

Lord Lucan

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But, the WTF reaction is certainly merited here.
It wasn't so very long ago that scaling Everest had a Herculean and heroic mystique about it. The sight of hundreds of climbers queuing for their couple of minutes (and obligatory selfie) on top of the world, kinda destroys that, despite the queue being in the "death zone" rather than at a theme park.
That's a very nice summation. What a bizarre image. Mt Everest would be the very last place I'd expect to see a human traffic jam.
 

mikfez

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This photo (dated 22 May) completely blew my mind ...
The notion of having to wait in a queue to stand on Everest's summit is surreal enough, but the idea this waiting probably contributed to two deaths elevates it to 'WTF' status ...
FULL STORY: https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/24/asia/everest-climbers-intl/index.html
It gets worse - Climber reveals Everest 'carnage' as people step over bodies to reach summit
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."
 

IamSundog

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It gets worse - Climber reveals Everest 'carnage' as people step over bodies to reach summit
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."
From what I’ve read, the route to the top has been littered with corpses for years/decades. It’s incredibly difficult and dangerous to remove the dead off the mountain.
 

Schrodinger's Zebra

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I was astounded when I saw that photo of Everest. I suppose I still was under the impression that Everest was only climbed once in a while by rare, super-experienced climbers or something. But from the looks of that, is it a case of anyone and everyone does it nowadays??

I can't see how there's room for people to come back down... assuming they come down the same route, that is... what if you feel ill or something, and can't get past everyone? What if someone moves and knocks someone else off the path?

It's... well, just so astonishing.
 

Shady

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Although 17 different routes have been pioneered to the summit of Everest, almost everyone climbs it via one of two routes. From Nepal there’s the Southeast Ridge, the line created by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary in 1953. From Tibet, there’s the North Ridge, where George Mallory disappeared in 1924 long before a Chinese team finally completed the climb in 1960.
Although experienced mountaineers say the overall difficulty of the two routes is comparable, the challenges are different. On the Southeast Ridge, mountaineers must race through the hazardous Khumbu Icefall, but it’s a slightly shorter summit day and easier to descend quickly in the event of an emergency. On the North Ridge, it’s possible to drive jeeps all the way to base camp, but mountaineers must traverse several kilometers of terrain above 27,000 feet to reach the summit.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/everest/reference/climbing-mount-everest/

Maybe they go up one and down the other

After the first death they should have made everyone go back
 

Swifty

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Although 17 different routes have been pioneered to the summit of Everest, almost everyone climbs it via one of two routes. From Nepal there’s the Southeast Ridge, the line created by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary in 1953. From Tibet, there’s the North Ridge, where George Mallory disappeared in 1924 long before a Chinese team finally completed the climb in 1960.
Although experienced mountaineers say the overall difficulty of the two routes is comparable, the challenges are different. On the Southeast Ridge, mountaineers must race through the hazardous Khumbu Icefall, but it’s a slightly shorter summit day and easier to descend quickly in the event of an emergency. On the North Ridge, it’s possible to drive jeeps all the way to base camp, but mountaineers must traverse several kilometers of terrain above 27,000 feet to reach the summit.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/everest/reference/climbing-mount-everest/

Maybe they go up one and down the other

After the first death they should have made everyone go back
George Mallory's remains are still on the mountain, they were found, filmed, photographed etc .. he's face down and the skin on his back is sun bleached white now .. sorry to be depressing but that's how it is at the moment unless someone's removed his body ..
 

Swifty

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He deserves a decent burial.
He does but at that exact altitude Everest climbers go to and where his remains are and the risks concerned in doing that, it would have to be a mission only to do that. People could die trying to retrieve his remains. There's so many corpses up there now from various decades that they are used as grim pointers now for contemporary climbers, 'green boots' being one man .. helicopters can rarely get up there due to weather conditions and there's no place to safely land ..

George's body as it remains still ..

ageorge.jpg
 
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Krepostnoi

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He does but at that exact altitude Everest climbers go to and where his remains are and the risks concerned in doing that, it would have to be a mission only to do that. People could die trying to retrieve his remains. There's so many corpses up there now from various decades that they are used as grim pointers now for contemporary climbers, 'green boots' being one man ..
Green Boots is no longer there. The BBC reckons China has been sending teams up to remove some of the bodies, in the attempt to burnish its credentials as the best custodian for the mountain. The question which did not occur to me back then is, if this is true, what are they then doing with the remains, and do the next-of-kin know?

ETA: Tsewang Paljor's story, and an answer to my question, among other matters.
 
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AnonyJoolz

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I know a bit about this, being a regular visitor to my husband's (original) country!

Indeed, being in the 'death zone' of Sagarmartha (AKA Everest) summit means there is little energy or ability to remove even corpses, let alone the litter, except on organised volunteer missions.

Some climbers do return to try and cover comrades' bodies; Nepali volunteers will periodically move corpses into crevasses and away from general view in order to show some respect for the dead. If bodies can't be moved - and why should climbers who have died there expect others to place their own lives in danger trying to move their mortal remains? - then they do become waymarkers, sometimes.

It is astonishing and also very indicative of the culture of Nepal that experienced Nepalese working as Sherpas will volunteer to climb the route to remove detritus, and move bodies at all. I notice a lack of Westerners offering to do the same.

David Sharp's sitting body remained in full view for almost two years, near Tsewang Paljor until both were semi-covered. Some bodies are blown from their positions, while others are periodically moved by ice shifts.

[link shows photos, NSFW or the squeamish] https://allthatsinteresting.com/mount-everest-bodies

My own opinion is that their bodies should serve as a testament to the danger of such a climb, and that death is truly great leveller - the Nepali climbers may have survived due to having the genetic high-altitude advantage that money cannot buy. I have seen many trekkers and tourists in Nepal showing such entitlement, simply because they could 'afford' it.

What the queues for the summit illustrate is the triumph of cash over time. Although the majority of people to have been to the summit are in fact Nepalese (independent of Nepalis employed on expeditions) the hefty fees charged for access to Everest aren't deterring would-be Hillarys or Norgays . What many Everest tourists are doing is bringing a deadly sense of safety/guarantee with them on their trip.

They have paid many tens of thousands of dollars but have still failed to realise that the chances of dying during an attempt can be around 10%. The fee they pay may seem large but the simple facilities at Lukla, base camp (EBC) and the forward camps are enormously expensive to provision and man. The fee also pays for local villagers to receive supplies via air and medical evacuation in dire emergencies. It's a hard, expensive and precarious life in northern Nepal.

Through my family connections, I know several trek guides based in Kathmandu who mainly specialise in getting to EBC from Lukla. Even at this level, many tourists have little knowledge of the effect of altitude. There is the helicopter medEvac based at Lukla and they over-invest this fact with feelings of safety. Sending a helicopter to fetch someone even from the somewhat 'thin-aired' EBC is hazardous for all involved.

Personally, one day I'd like to get to Lukla village to stay for a couple of days, via the very high and rather dangerous airstrip. That'd be an expedition enough for me.



[edited for syntax/typos]
 
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Ladyloafer

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He does but at that exact altitude Everest climbers go to and where his remains are and the risks concerned in doing that, it would have to be a mission only to do that. People could die trying to retrieve his remains. There's so many corpses up there now from various decades that they are used as grim pointers now for contemporary climbers, 'green boots' being one man .. helicopters can rarely get up there due to weather conditions and there's no place to safely land ..

George's body as it remains still ..

wow, thats grim. and very sad. i wonder if there was some way they could bury his body where it lies? like a cairn or something?


i get that climbers bring money into the area but it seems like the authorities ought to have quotas or something. limits on amount of people at any one time. maybe they do? close the mountain for a year and have people collecting litter and dead bodies. how on earth can people descending a climb feel comfortable about having to literally climb over other climbers bodies? thats...i don't know, maybe thats a thing in mountaineering?
 

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Green Boots is no longer there. The BBC reckons China has been sending teams up to remove some of the bodies, in the attempt to burnish its credentials as the best custodian for the mountain. The question which did not occur to me back then is, if this is true, what are they then doing with the remains, and do the next-of-kin know?

ETA: Tsewang Paljor's story, and an answer to my question, among other matters.
There's a Guardian article about the corpses on Everest which I remember mentioned a woman who'd died in a sitting/crouched position and become a landmark. Or maybe that was on another mountain?

Anyway, Tom Ballard and his Italian climbing partner Daniele Nardi died on Nanga Parbat mountain in Pakistan in February. Ballard's mother Alison Hargreaves was killed on K2 in the Himalays in 1995 when Ballard was a little kid. She had been the first woman to reach the top of Everest unaided.

I remember Hargreaves' death very well. I thought what a selfish person she must have been to put mountaineering before her children.
Nothing has changed my mind since.
The same would apply to a father, of course; when you have kids, you settle down and raise your family and watch F1 and keep your urge to take risks under control until your midlife crisis, when you can buy another motorbike or try jet skiing and get a nose ring.

We have a whole jokey culture about dads in recognition of that sacrifice they make!
 

IamSundog

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i get that climbers bring money into the area but it seems like the authorities ought to have quotas or something. limits on amount of people at any one time. maybe they do?
I understand that they issue a limited number of permits every year. But the economic pressure to issue more must be intense.
 

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wow, thats grim. and very sad. i wonder if there was some way they could bury his body where it lies? like a cairn or something?
His body is mostly inaccessible but the team that found him did cover his body with a cairn and conducted an Anglican funeral rite before leaving. The ice and stone may well cover him up again even further at some point. 'Green Boots' is now partially covered with stones placed by climbers, and David Sharp's body has been moved out of view.


i get that climbers bring money into the area but it seems like the authorities ought to have quotas or something. limits on amount of people at any one time. maybe they do?
They do have a permit and quota system, annually. Also for the other big '7' climbs in the Himalaya.

....close the mountain for a year and have people collecting litter and dead bodies. how on earth can people descending a climb feel comfortable about having to literally climb over other climbers bodies? thats...i don't know, maybe thats a thing in mountaineering?
Not a go at you lovely Ladyloafer, but in general:

Who would do the clearing and collecting? Would the tourists pay even more? Part of their fee covers limited clearing, cleaning and medEvac at EBC but beyond that, they are kind of on their own. Even when paid handsomely, who would volunteer to regularly ascend to the death zone? Some Nepalese do volunteer for this but it's a very dangerous place.

Sherpas and guides are paid, of course, but around the 'death zone' climbers on both guided climbs and unguided (ie cheaper) climbs know that if a Sherpa recommends descent, and you will not or physically cannot comply then you're on your own. No-one can carry you, rescue you or send a helicopter further than the next camp beyond EBC [which is only very intermittently possible]. Sometimes other climbers will help, but it places their own lives at greater risk to do so.

So .... the bodies stay there, an amazing last resting place.


There's a Guardian article about the corpses on Everest which I remember mentioned a woman who'd died in a sitting/crouched position and become a landmark. Or maybe that was on another mountain?.....
I think that might have been Hannelore Schmatz, who made the summit in 1979. She was unable to complete the descent after ignoring her Sherpa's advice and she died resting against her backpack the next day. As the backpack disintegrated she was left sitting up. Her body was gradually dessicated, and eventually was blown out of view.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannelore_Schmatz

And with relevance to the sheer danger of trying to recover bodies on Everest, in 1984 two Nepalis - Yogendra Thapa and Ang Dorje - died while trying to recover Hannelore's on a Nepal police expedition: https://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/29/...taineers-die-looking-for-body-on-everest.html
 
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blessmycottonsocks

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No, but climbing the world's tallest mountain may well be.
On my drive home last night, I listened to a radio interview with an experienced climber, who had scaled Everest 4 (I think it was) times.
His latest climb was to assist a group of 4 women climbers from Saudi Arabia and Oman in conquering Everest. He described it at the least joyous climb ever and described how, after some 18 months training and preparation, his team was unable to stand on the actual summit because of the crowds all hogging the space and taking selfies. They spent a couple of minutes around 20 feet from the congested summit and then started heading down for the sake of safety. He also described stepping over 4 dead bodies and seeing another climber being carried down in an obviously distressed state.

Not sure if I've mentioned it before here but, around 25 years ago, I was invited to join an Everest expedition. At the time, I didn't have the time or money (or indeed bottle!) to consider it.
As the years passed, I've occasionally regretted my decision. Seeing photos of the Roof of the World being flash mobbed though has persuaded me that maybe I didn't miss much!
 
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