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Another American Dies on Crowded Everest

Climbers talk about the grim reality of stepping over bodies
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2019 8:47 AM CDT
Updated May 27, 2019 12:30 PM CDT
In this 2016, file photo, Mt. Everest, in middle, is pictured.   (AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File)

(Newser) – Eleven climbers have died this climbing season on Mount Everest, and if the accounts of those returning from the summit are any guide, that number will likely grow. The most recent death is that of a 62-year-old American named Christopher Kulish, who died Monday while descending from the summit, reports Reuters. Family members say Kulish, an attorney from Colorado, died suddenly after the descent to South Col, where the final camp for climbers before the summit is located. Climbers this year have been complaining about "traffic jams" on the way to and from the summit, resulting in hours-long delays that can often prove fatal. Details and developments:

  • First-hand account: "I was not prepared to see sick climbers being dragged down the mountain by Sherpas or the surreal experience of finding dead bodies," Arizona doctor Ed Dohring, 62, tells the New York Times. Dohring, an experienced mountaineer, had to step around the body of a woman near the summit and saw two more on the way down. "It was scary," he says. "It was like a zoo."
  • Another: Canadian climber Elia Saikaly tells the Ottawa Citizen that his ascent this year, his third, will be his last. "Death. Carnage. Chaos” is how he described things on Instagram. "People are stepping over a body. You look around and see how people are dealing with that and you realize that people are not dealing with reality because they can’t." During his own climb this year, Saikaly was shooting a documentary.

  • Don't blame us: Nepal issued a record 381 permits to climbers this year, a figure that doesn't include the sherpa guides who accompany them. A tourism official, though, says overcrowding is not the "sole reason" for the deaths, per the BBC. He says climbing Everest is inherently dangerous, making "tragic accidents" unavoidable. Bad weather has led to a short climbing window this season, he adds.
  • Death zone: Climbers are running into trouble in what's known as the "death zone" in the approach to the summit. The air is dangerously thin, and climbers at this point have shed as much equipment as they can for the home stretch, per the Times. But the long lines means some are running out of oxygen before they can get up and down again. The problem is, when climbers are that close to the top, few want to abandon the quest, despite the risk.
  • His own warning: One of those who died this year, Robin Fisher of Britain, worried online about the crowds before his own final ascent. "With a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people," he wrote, per CNN. "Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game." Fisher died of what is believed to be altitude sickness during his descent on the 25th.
  • Anger: Ameesha Chauhan, an Indian woman, is recuperating from frostbite after her Everest climb this year. She, too, experienced delays. "I saw some climbers without basic skills fully relying on their Sherpa guides," she tells AFP, calling for the Nepalese government to tighten the approval process. "Only trained climbers should be granted the permit to climb Everest."
(One of those who died was American Don Cash, an experienced climber.)

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