Deaths On Mount Everest

Mia Noel, Writer

British climber David Sharp, sat down under an overhang 1,500 feet below the summit of Mount Everest on May 15, 2006. Sharp sat down, from the exhaustion of climbing the mountain, after successfully reaching the summit of Mount Everest. As he sat there he began to freeze in his place. At least 40 climbers passed him on their travel up the mountain believing him to be dead or just not wanting to rescue him. One group of climbers passed him at about 1 in the morning, saw he was still breathing, but continued on because they felt that they could not help him. Sharp continued to freeze through the night and into the next morning. He was most likely hypoxic, having a lack of oxygen that can accumulate into death.

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, standing at 29,035 feet or 8,850 meters. Many climbers have died on the mountain since 1921 and about 200 of them are still on the mountain today. There are many reasons of why people remain on the mountain after dying. Some reasons are that the climbers become buried in crevasses, they fall down remote parts of the mountain, they become buried in snow and ice, they lie out in the open, or they sit beside popular routes. By 2016, approximately 280 climbers have died on Mount Everest. The more people who attempt to climb the mountain each year increases the number of deaths each year. 6.5% of 4,000 people, all of which have reached the summit, have died since the initial ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. 212 deaths occurred in the 86 year period from 1921 to 2006. 192, of the 212, deaths occurred above base camp, where the technical climbing begins. The mortality rate in this period was 1.6%, this also means that 1 death occurs after every 10 ascents.

Most climbers die during the descent of the upper slopes, these upper slopes are also called the “death zone”. One of the most dangerous parts of the ascent is when climbers are up in higher altitudes with lower levels of oxygen and more exposure to harsh weather conditions. Another danger of climbing the mountain is the amount of people climbing at a time. An increase in people climbing at one time and accumulating at key points on the mountain increases the risk of death. Overcrowding tends to be the most simple yet the most threatening reason of death, this is because long lines causes people to walk in each others steps creating high danger zones in areas like Hillary Step on the South Col Route. Deaths on Everest tend to categorize themselves into two different categories, traumatic and nontraumatic deaths. Traumatic deaths include mountaineering falls, avalanches, and extreme weather. Nontraumatic deaths include exhaustion, injury, and altitude related illnesses. Altitude related illnesses include HACE, or high altitude cerebral edema, and HAPE, or high altitude pulmonary edema. HACE is where the brain swells from leakage of cerebral blood vessels, and symptoms include loss of coordination, confusion, lack of judgement, and unconsciousness. HAPE is where the is an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty walking uphill, fever, bloody cough, and an irregular heartbeat. Other reasons of death tend to be climbers who are not physically conditioned and suffer from fatigue and rapidly dropping temperatures. The 4 most common ways to die on Mount Everest are avalanches, altitude sickness, bad weather, and faulty equipment.