‘Too many people up there.’ At least 7 die in Everest gridlock

News source from CTV News

Christy Somos, with files from CTV Calgary

Published Saturday, May 25, 2019 6:57PM EDT

Last Updated Saturday, May 25, 2019 7:02PM EDT

More people than ever before are attempting to climb the world’s tallest peak, and it’s creating a deadly gridlock.

At least seven climbers have died in the past week alone, bringing this season’s death toll to 11, according to Nepal’s tourism department.

Experts say the sheer number of people, equipment and guides currently attempting to reach the summit may be contributing to the deaths.

Several of the climbers who have died were stuck in the “death zone” above the final base camp before the summit, a place where climbers are fully exposed to the elements and where oxygen is at some of the lowest levels.

Professional climber Andrew Brash told CTV News Channel on Saturday that during high season, “you get people going to the top every day.”

That gridlock may be leading to altitude sickness, which occurs when people can’t get enough oxygen because of a rapid change in altitude.

An American climber died after succumbing to altitude sickness on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Robin Fisher of the U.K. died of the same affliction. His partner, Kristyn Carriere, is from Edmonton.

Brash has seen just how dangerous Everest can be. He’s helped save fellow mountaineer Lincoln Hall in 2006 after Hall succumbed to exhaustion and altitude sickness on his descent down from the summit. Hall spent the night out in the elements after Sherpa guides believed he had died. Brash and other climbers found him the next morning and assisted in his rescue and return to base camp.

Due to the mere three-week annual window of opportunity for climbers to reach the summit, a “mob mentality” can occur, according to Brash. That’s especially true when rumours of good weather swirl through camp, he said.

The rush of climbers attempting to take advantage of fair weather often results in traffic jams.

“There’s just too many people up there,” said Brash. “I feel like we need to back off a little bit”

Brash said that the Nepalese government could improve the situation by limiting the number of permits it hands out.

He said the mountain also needs time to recover from the constant traffic, which has resulted in trash and corpses.

“It’s clearly out of hand right now,” he said.

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