Hundreds of Climbers Create 'Traffic Jam' in Mount Everest's 'Death Zone'
By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter
May 24, 2019
Hundreds of mountaineers trying to summit the highest peak in the world had to sit tight for several hours after congestion built up due to several deaths on the peak this week.
Three people died on Mount Everest Thursday, bringing the total death toll to seven for the week. Climbers were forced to wait for hours on the trail in freezing temperatures in an area known as the "Death Zone."
The increased deaths on the mountain are likely due to the increased number of permits and long traffic jams, tour organizers say. Mountaineers wishing to summit Mount Everest must pay $11,000 each for the spring season, according to the BBC.
Two Indian men and a third climber were among those who died on Thursday. An American climber identified as Donald Lynn Cash, 55, died Wednesday after fainting from high altitude sickness while descending from the summit, according to the Nepalese expedition company Pioneer Adventure Pvt. Ltd. Cash reportedly collapsed while taking photographs at the summit and died while he was being taken down the mountain by Sherpas.
"Our team did their best to save his life," the company added. "Despite [the Sherpa's] best efforts in providing the best guidance, sufficient oxygen supplies and medical support they could not save his life."
A second climber from India, Anjali Kulkarni, 55, also died earlier this week while she was on her way down from the summit on Wednesday. Kulkarni became stuck in the "traffic jam" above camp four - the final camp before the summit, CNN reported.
Photos of the traffic jam made up of climbers trying to summit Everest were posted to Facebook by climber Nirmal Purja. Purja estimated that around 320 people were stuck on the trail leading up to the summit.
Danduraj Ghimire, the director general of Nepal's Tourism Department said the good weather created an opportunity for climbers to make their attempt on summiting Mount Everest.
"The weather has not been very great this climbing season, so when there is a small window when the weather clears up, climbers make the move," Ghimire said. "On May 22, after several days of bad weather, there was a small window of clear weather, when more than 200 mountaineers ascended Everest. The main cause of deaths on Everest has been high altitude sickness which is what happened with most of the climbers who lost their lives this season as well."
The air is so thin at the peak (29,029 feet), each breath only contains one-third the amount of oxygen a person would get at sea level. Many climbers use supplemental bottles of oxygen to make it to the top of the peak and avoid acute mountain sickness, the symptoms of which, can resemble a hangover. People suffering from AMS complain of headaches, dizziness, nausea, trouble sleeping, and loss of appetite.
Only five people were known to have died on Everest in 2018.
Photo: Project Possible