Everest weekend death toll reaches four

By IndepthAfrica
In News
May 22nd, 2012

Climbers have reported seeing another body on Mount Everest, raising the death toll to four for one of the worst days ever on the world’s highest mountain.

Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha said on Tuesday that the body of Chinese climber Ha Wenyi was spotted not far from where three other climbers died. They were part of what was a “traffic jam” by Everest standards – an estimated 150 climbers who rushed to use a brief window of good weather to try to reach the top on Friday and Saturday.

Wenyi and the other victims – German doctor Eberhard Schaaf, Nepal-born Canadian Shriya Shah and South Korean mountaineer Song Won-bin – died on Saturday on their way down from the 8850-metre summit. They are believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, Shrestha said.

Shrestha said a Nepalese Sherpa guide who had been reported missing is safe and has reached the base camp. He said the guide was separated from his group and did not have communications equipment.

The latest deaths have raised concerns about overcrowding in the “death zone” at the top of the world’s tallest peak. Many of those who headed to the summit over the weekend had waited at a staging camp for several days for the weather to improve enough to attempt the climb.

“There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2.30pm, which is quite dangerous,” Shrestha said.

Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11am. The area above the last camp at the South Col is nicknamed the “death zone” because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

“With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent,” Shrestha said.

The climbing season runs from late March to the first week in June, and the Nepalese government places no limits on how many climbers can be on the 8850-metre mountain. The season’s first clear conditions were on Friday and Saturday, but that window already was closing by Saturday afternoon with a windstorm at higher altitudes, Shrestha said.

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