Climbing Mt. Everest used to be something that very few people even considered, much less attempted. Today, things are a bit different, and at any given time there are hundreds of climbers in various stages of their journey, with huge numbers of adventurers reaching the summit when the weather is agreeable.
Unfortunately, this means that crowding can become a major problem, and many climbers find themselves unceremoniously waiting in queues for the path to clear so they can experience what it’s like at the very top. Deaths are unfortunately not uncommon, and one climber who wrote about the challenges of navigating the crowds is the latest to be claimed by the mountain.
Robin Hayes, who wrote at length about Everest’s crowded queues just a week ago, completed his summit on Saturday, but died of what is assumed to be altitude sickness upon his descent.
In a long and detailed post on Instagram, Hayes explained the situation on the mountain:
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Climbed up to camp 3, 7500m but the jet stream had returned closing the summit after only 2 days so I descended to basecamp. Around 100 climbers did summit in those 2 days with sadly 2 deaths, an Indian man found dead in his tent at camp 4 and an Irish climber lost, assumed fallen, on his descent. A go fund me page has been set up for a rescue bid for the Irish climber but it is a well meaning but futile gesture. Condolences to both their friends and families. Both deaths happened above 8000m in the so called death zone where the majority of deaths of foreign climbers happen. Around 700 more people will be looking to summit from Tuesday the 21st onwards. My revised plan, subject to weather that at the moment looks promising, is to return up the mountain leaving basecamp Tuesday the 21st 0230 and, all being well and a lot of luck, arriving on the summit the morning of Saturday the 25th. I will be climbing with my Sherpa, Jangbu who is third on the all time list with an incredible 19 summits. The other 4 members of our team decided to remain on the mountain and are looking to summit on the 21st. My cough had started to return at altitude so I couldn’t wait with them at altitude for the window to open without the risk of physically deteriorating too much. Furthermore as I had missed due to sickness the earlier camp 3 rotation best practice was for me to descend to allow my body to recover from the new altitude high so I could come back stronger. This was not an easy decision as the 13 hours climbing from basecamp to camp 2 in a day was the hardest physical and mental challenge I had ever done, now I have it all to do again. Finally I am hopeful to avoid the crowds on summit day and it seems like a number of teams are pushing to summit on the 21st. With a single route to the summit delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game. #everest #everest2019 #lhotseface
The post, which is definitely worth reading in its entirety, is an eye-opening look at what a climber has to deal with in order to fulfill their dream of summiting Everest. Weather conditions and the physical demands aside, mountaineers are faced with hundreds of peers who are hoping to do the exact same thing, and there’s only so much room on the narrow mountain paths.
Hayes wrote about his plan to wait a few days in order to summit on the 25th in the hopes that some of the larger teams would have already cleared out by then. “Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game,” Hayes wrote, doubting his own predictive wisdom.
Weather patterns can dramatically change how a trip to Everest plays out, and climbers can only stay near the top for so long before suffering some serious health effects. Once a climber enters the so-called “death zone,” which is past the 26,000 foot mark, the clock is ticking, and an attempt at the summit has to be made when the time is right or teams have to retreat to safer altitudes and wait. This is one of the things that causes queues to form.
A total of 11 people have died so far this year on the mountain.