The ascension of the Everest mount is the fantasy and the dream of any passionate climber, despite all the dangers it represents. Every year, people die while trying to reach the top, but the death risk that the mission represents doesn’t stop the motivated adventurers.
Perhaps not everyone knows reaching the top of Mount Everest, the highest point on the planet with its 8.848 meters, located in the Mahalangur mountain range in between both Nepal and Tibet, is a feat only about 5,000 people have accomplished. The trek to the summit takes months of physical preparation and weeks of acclimatization to get climbers used to the mountain’s oxygen-starved altitudes. Moreover, climbing on the rock giant requires a considerable amount of money and time, as well as a lot of courage.
Last may at least 11 people died, 10 of whom were on their way down from the summit. Some expedition companies and officials blamed lines near the summit, which caused climbers to spend more time in the mountain’s “death zone”: altitudes above 8.000 meters, where people cannot get enough oxygen. Instead, according to other experienced climbers, most problems arise when climbers don’t leave themselves enough energy to get back down the mountain.
People who attempt to climb the mountain generally spend over $25,000, buying $850 oxygen tanks, paying $11,000 in permits (when climbing from Nepal), and hiring local guides called sherpas to help them carry tools and open the street. Thus, hikers usually stay at Everest base camp for several weeks to acclimatize to the thin air before trying to reach the peak.
Lhakpa Sherpa has reached the summit of the world’s tallest mountain more times than any other woman: in 2018, she reached the summit, clients in tow, for the ninth time. According to the woman, the day a group attempts to summit Everest is by far the most difficult section of the trek.
The final stage is called “the dead zone, referring to the dangerous final 850 meters stretch of the climb, in which hikers are above 8,000 meters high.
The hard work begins around 10 p.m., when hikers begin climbing up that last stretch in the dark. Starting at night allows them to reach the top by daybreak and see better when they climb back down. The climb to the summit takes about seven hours.
Here, people can suffer from an oxygen-starved delirium that some experts consider a form of high-altitude psychosis: climbers have been known to do strange things like start shedding their clothes or talking to imaginary friends and all the while, climbers pass a macabre kind of signage: dead corpses of fallen hikers that littler the trail.
The frozen bodies of the people who’ve died into the mountain’s death zone serve as a sad (and a little creepy) reminder that even with a big preparation, experienced guides, and expensive gear, Everest is deadly. In every instance, it is still a pretty macabre sign that reminds us all that nature when not under the human kind control is stronger than us even today.
Lhakpa Sherpa, who’s been scaling the mountain regularly since 2000, said she saw seven bodies during the final stretch of her climb in 2018, including one who looked alive, with the wind was blowing his hair, even if upon a closer inspection, she realized his face was frozen and disfigured.
According to the Himalayan Database, which was last updated in 2018, there have been 295 recorded deaths on the mountains. Including the 11 people who’ve reportedly died trying to climb the mountain this spring, the count soars at least to 306 bodies, in a very high death rate for a mountain that only about 5,000 people have ever scaled. For years, Everest climbers have spoken of a dead man they called “Green Boots” who lay in a cave roughly 1,130 feet from the top. Many of these bodies have remained on the mountain because hiking up to recover bodies at that altitude (or carrying people down) can also be a deadly chore. According to the BBC, more than 200 permanently frozen corpses litter the mountain, according to one 2015 estimate.
Despite the lack of communication method back then, one of the first Everest’s victim, George Mallory who disappeared in 1924, was found 75 years after he died, and no one will ever know if he managed to make it to the summit or not.
The most cited cause of death on Everest is avalanches, while other people have perished from the various health consequences of hiking at an altitude that’s usually reserved for airplanes. The air has so little oxygen that even with tanks, it can feel like “running on a treadmill and breathing through a straw,” according to American mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears.
Despite the challenges that a lack of oxygen poses, hikers must climb fairly quickly to reach the summit around 5 a.m., and once at the top, climbers can only spend 20 minutes there: time to snap a few photos, before heading back down out of the death zone. The trek back to the safety of base camp takes 12 hours and a team usually reaches camp just as the sun sets.
Sources: businessinsider.com and personal researches. Photos: businessinsider and web.