The "death zone" near the summit of Mount Everest is living up to its name. At least seven climbers have died on the mountain this week, most of them after spending time caught in a lethal single-file traffic jam of climbers on the way to and back from the summit. The death of American climber Don Cash Wednesday was followed by that of 55-year-old Anjali Kulkarni, an Indian woman who also died while descending from the summit, CBS reports. Two more exhausted climbers from India died while descending Thursday, while a 65-year-old man from Austria died on the northern side of the mountain, away from the bottleneck of climbers, expedition organizers say. More:
- "Stuck in traffic." One of the climbers to die Thursday was 27-year-old Nihal Bagwan, AFP reports. "He was stuck in the traffic for more than 12 hours and was exhausted. Sherpa guides carried him down to Camp 4 but he breathed his last there," says a spokesman for Peak Promotion. The other man who died during the descent Thursday was Kalpana Das, 52. Climbers say people have been getting stuck for around three hours in the area near the summit, where oxygen levels are only about a third of those found at sea level.
- Stunning photo. Climber Nirmal Purja tweeted a stunning photo of hundreds of climbers queuing to reach the summit.
- Died pursuing a dream. Anjali Kulkarni's son tells CNN that she was also caught in the traffic jam of climbers while making her way down from the summit with her husband. He says his parents, who owned an advertising agency, retired to "pursue their dream of standing atop Mount Everest." Tour group manager Phupden Sherpa says she was unable to maintain her energy after the long wait to get back to Camp 4, the first below the summit.
- A rush to the summit. Nivel Karki, manager of Pioneer Adventure, tells the New York Times that good weather contributed to the dangerous congestion in the summit area. On Wednesday, "it was such a clear day, so everyone was rushing to the summit," he says. "Once the weather is bad, no one can summit, so in good weather, everyone will try to go for the summit."
- More deaths than last year. With seven deaths, this year's spring climbing season on Everest is already deadlier than last year, the BBC reports. Last week, a climber from India was found dead in his tent after descending from the summit, and Irish professor Seamus Lawless is believed to have fallen to his death.
- Record number of climbers. There have been calls for Nepal—which issued 381 permits costing $11,000 each this year—to do more to limit the number of climbers. The number of people making it to the summit this year is expected to exceed last year's record of 807 people. (Those 381 potential climbers are usually accompanied by Nepalese guides.)
- "I'm surprised more people haven't died." Climber Benjamin Chan, a member of the last team to make it to the summit last year, says he worries that some tour companies are putting profit before safety, the South China Morning Post reports. "They have no prerequisites for climbers and there are a lot of climbers up there who have no idea and are moving slowly," he says. "I’m surprised more people haven’t died." He says he has seen climbers who don't know how to use their equipment and "have a Sherpa holding their hands."
(Read more Mount Everest