Everest 2012: North Side Fatalities

Everest line

Everest climbers are back on the move today, heading up on both sides of the mountain as they ready themselves for the next, and possibly last, weather window of the season. By Thursday of this week the teams will be in place once again, and Friday and Saturday should be busy days on the summit once again.

While we wait for that window to open there is more news from the mountain today, most notably from Alan Arnette who reports that there have been three confirmed deaths on the North Side as well. The full names of the three climbers haven’t been released, but Alan says that a Spanish climber by the name of Juan, who was part of the Himalayan Guides team, perished of exhaustion after reaching the summit on the 19th or 20th. A German climber with Montarosa reportedly broke his leg on the Second Step and later died there, while an Italian climber named Luggi, who is also on Montarosa’s permit, has now spent four nights at 8300 meters (27,230 ft) without oxygen. He reportedly refused to descend and most likely then became stuck there, and is now presumed to have died.

Alan is quick to point out that in all three of these cases the climbers has very limited support and were climbing without western guides. It appears they had paid to be on permits and were using team logistics, but had little or now Sherpa support as well. By his count, Alan now says that there have been 11 deaths in total on Everest this season.

Once again, my condolences to friends, family and teammates.

Outside magazine’s Grayson Schaffer has checked in from Everest’s South Side again today with a report on the four deaths on that side of the mountain. He says that this weekend there were about 300 climbers, guides, and Sherpas that went up the mountain, which created traffic jams at various points along the way. (See the picture above!) He shares some details on what happened with Nepali-born Canadian Shriya Shah, who continued to climb up the mountain, along with her team, well after the cut-off time for when most climbers should turn back.

Shah summited around 2:30 PM and was on her way down when she started to run into trouble. Reportedly she was back at the Balcony around 9:30 PM when she ran out oxygen in her last bottle. At that point she had used nine bottles of oxygen and without it she soon started to struggle. By 10 PM she had collapsed, not far from the body of Scott Fischer, and her Sherpa guides, who has been assisting her down with a rope, were unable to revive her.

Schaffer also touches on the other deaths on the South Side as well and says that they have had a definite impact on the mood in Base Camp, which has been understandably gloomy. But other climbers and guides say that these deaths are more a result of bad luck and poor personal decisions rather than the mountain itself being particularly dangerous. Considering the number of people that did successfully summit, versus the number of fatalities, these numbers are actually quite low. Although the growing crowds on Everest aren’t helping the situation.

The entire article is a good read, with lots of information straight from Base Camp. I definitely recommend you read it if you have any interest in the happenings on the Big Hill.

Finally, ExWeb has posted a warning for climbers using Summit regulators on Everest or Lhotse in the next few days. Two of the regulators have failed on the mountain before those using them have even set out. As a precautionary measure climbers are urged to test their regulators ahead of time in order ensure they are in working order in the days ahead.

More to come soon!

Kraig Becker