VIDEO: Deaths rise as Nepal issues more permits for Mount Everest

After 11 deaths, the country said it would still not restrict permits

Eric Murphy, a mountain guide from Bellingham, Washington poses for a photograph in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Scaling Mount Everest was a dream few realized before Nepal opened its side of the mountain to commercial climbing a half-century ago.

This year, the government issued a record number of permits, leading to traffic jams on the world’s highest peak that likely contributed to the greatest death toll in four years.

READ MORE: B.C. man who ascended Everest recounts injuries, frostbite and death

As the allure of Everest grows, so have the crowds, with inexperienced climbers faltering on the narrow passageway to the peak and causing deadly delays, veteran climbers said.

After 11 people died this year, Nepal tourism officials have no intention of restricting the number of permits issued, instead encouraging even more tourists and climbers to come “for both pleasure and fame,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.

Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, relies on the climbing industry to bring in $300 million each year. It doesn’t cap the number of permits it issues or control the pace or timing of the expeditions, leaving that to tour operators and guides who take advantage of brief clear weather conditions whenever they come, leading to pileups near the peak.

On May 22, a climber snapped a photo from a line with dozens of hikers in colorful winter gear that snaked into the sky.

Climbers were crammed crampon-to-crampon along a sharp-edged ridge above South Col, with a 7,000-foot (2,000-meter) drop on either side, all clipped onto a single line of rope, trudging toward the top of the world and risking death as each minute ticked by.

“There were more people on Everest than there should be,” said Kul Bahadur Gurung, general secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, an umbrella group of all expedition operators in Nepal. “We lack the rules and regulations that say how many people can actually go up and when.”

The death toll this season is the highest since 2015. Most of those who died are believed to have suffered from altitude sickness, which is caused by low amounts of oxygen at high elevation and can cause headaches, vomiting, shortness of breath and mental confusion.

Once only accessible to well-heeled elite mountaineers, Nepal’s booming climbing market has driven down the cost of an expedition, opening Everest up to hobbyists and adventure-seekers. Nepal requires climbers to have a doctors’ note deeming them physically fit, but not to prove their stamina at such extreme heights.

Because of the altitude, climbers have just hours to reach the top before they are at risk of a pulmonary edema, when the lungs fill with liquid. From Camp Four at 8,000 metres (26,240 feet) to the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak, the final push on Everest is known as the “death zone.”

The conditions are so intense at such times that when a person dies, no one can afford to expend energy on carrying the body down from the mountain.

“Every minute counts there,” said Eric Murphy, a mountain guide from Bellingham, Washington, who climbed Everest for a third time on May 23. He said what should have taken 12 hours took 17 hours because of struggling climbers who were clearly exhausted but had no one to guide or help them.

Just a handful of inexperienced climbers, he said, is “enough to have a profound effect.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Indian climber Ameesha Chauhan who survived dangerous overcrowding on Mount Everest gets treatment at a hospital after she was rescued in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Just Posted

Ucluelet releases COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Part of the recovery plan involves deploying three district staff as COVID-19 Community Monitors

Tofino mayor urges “kindness” as tourism reopens

“Health and safety matters to everyone.”

Resorts in Tofino and Ucluelet prepare to reopen in June

“We need to get the tourist economy in our communities back up and running.”

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve plans limited reopening on June 4

The Park Reserve shut down on March 18 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pacific Rim Hospice Society gifting free wellness “check-ins” to all West Coast residents

“This pandemic has led to a lot of isolation and it’s helpful for anybody just to have a soundboard.”

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

B.C. tourism seeks relief as businesses wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease

Mid-June earliest for more in-province travel to be authorized

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

Linda Peters envisions trained searchers ready to go at moment’s notice in each B.C. First Nation

Most Read