Tragedies of Everest: More Deaths On World’s Tallest Mountain

Ratan Varghese - 1B Electrical
Posted on: June 5, 2016

Last year, Mount Everest was closed early for climbing during the Nepalese earthquake. The year before that, the mountain was closed after 16 Sherpas were killed in an avalanche. This year, Everest was re-opened and 6 climbers died on the journey to the summit.

First was Dutchman Eric Arnold. Then Maria Strydom, who had climbed with her husband, was too exhausted to join him on the last 15 minute stretch to the summit, and died in his arms during their trip down. Finally, Subhash Paul, Paresh Paul, and Gautam Gosh, who didn’t heed their Sherpa guide’s advice to stay off the summit for lack of time. The fourth climber in their expedition, Sunita Hazra, nearly died as well: luckily for her another climber, Leslie Binns, found her screaming and oxygen-deprived. Binns abandoned his own climb to the summit to help her down.

The extreme effort and biting cold are dangerous in and of themselves. On top of that, the low oxygen near the summit takes a toll on the bodies and minds of climbers: they start making dangerous decisions and overestimating their stamina. Nevertheless, the allure of achievement for climbers, and fortune for the Nepalese and Sherpas enabling the climbers seems strong enough to ensure still more people will risk life and limb next year. Some people climb to brag, some crave a sense of control over their life, some are playing hero.

Even as more attempt to climb Everest each year, the romance of the task is being chipped away with time. Now that thousands have reached the summit, it is no longer quite an exclusive achievement. The lower section of the mountain is littered with trash and human excrement: cleaning it up would be dangerous and expensive. Higher up, the dead bodies of past climbers remind their successors of the risks they are taking. There are over 200 corpses on Everest: some are encountered so often that they acquire nicknames, particularly Tsewang Paljor, now often called “Green Boots”, much to the distress of his family.

The Sherpa guides who accompany mountaineers are becoming less willing to face the deadly peak. After the 2014 avalanche, many of them refused to climb again until they were offered higher insurance and benefits, which they received. Some have considered offering guides to mountains other than Everest. Others are considering looking to other lines of work altogether. Easier said than done in Nepal’s tourism-focused economy: experienced mountain guides have a higher salary than the Nepalese prime minister. The Nepalese government, by the way, tends to avoid regulating this extremely potent source of income.

All this means that despite the massive risks and recent tragedies, there will likely be mountaineers eager enough to climb Everest and Sherpas opportunistic enough to join them for many years to come.