Himalaya Spring 2019: Evacuations, Missing Climbers, and Deaths Mar Summit Success

More updates are coming in from the Himalaya, where the first summit window of the spring season has now come to an end on Everest. Winds are expected to pick up again over the next few days, keeping everyone temporarily lower on the mountain. But amidst the stories of success, comes disturbing news of evacuations, missing climbers, and deaths across the region.

The past few days have definitely been ones for the record book in more ways than one. Alan Arnette is reporting that more than 110 people have already summited Everest this season, with many more to come. But beyond that, Lhotse, Makalu, and Kangchenjunga were also successful summited on the same day as Everest, marking the first time that four 8000-meter peaks were climbed on the same day in Nepal. Add in handful of summits on Dhaulagiri, and the 2019 spring season seems like it has been a successful one already.

Dig a little deep however, and you’ll start to uncover some problems. Not the least of which have been the multiple deaths that have occurred in recent days. We’ve already reported on several of them here on The Adventure Blog, but during this current weather window there have been others as well. For instance, Indian climber Ravi Thakar was found dead in a tent at the South Col on Everest, while Narayan Singh perished on Makalu after descending from the summit of that mountain.

That’s just the beginning however, as Irish climber Seamus Sean Lawless has gone missing above Camp 4 on Everest and Chilean alpinist Rodrigo Vivanco is unaccounted for on Kangchenjunga too. Over on Makalu, Dipankar Ghos of India is also missing, with all three men now presumed to be dead. There has been no sign of any of them for the past few days.

As if that wasn’t enough, there have also been a large number of evacuations as well, with climbers suffering from hypothermia, frostbite, and altitude sickness. This is being attributed to the unusually cold conditions in the Himalaya this season, particular in the wake of Cyclone Fani. It doesn’t bode well for the climbers who are yet to launch their summit bids however, as things could get particularly scary once things start to get busier. Traffic jams high on Everest could cause all kinds of issues in the days ahead.

Beyond the colder temperatures, there could be other explanations for these issues as well. Alan Arnette says that it is more than likely related to the level of experience that many of these climbers have these days, and inadequate support from the operators who are understaffed, lacking in resources and experience, and have too many clients.

Hopefully this high number of deaths, missing climbers, and sick individuals isn’t a sign of things to come. When the next weather window opens on Everest there will be more than 600 people looking to head to the summit, which could spell disaster if the current trends continue.

On the North Side in Tibet the teams are still waiting for the ropes to be installed. It is taking longer than usual in part because of the weather, but also because the logistics haven’ been well managed. Now, the rope fixing team is once again waiting out the weather, but a they hope to open the route by May 20 or 21.

There has been some good news in recent days. For example, Kami Rita Sherpa notched his 23rd successful trip to the summit of Everest, extending his own record. Brit Kenton Cool scaled the mountain for the 14th time, while South Africa’s Saray N’ Kusi Khumalo became the first black woman from Africa to climb the world’s highest peak.

Right now, many teams are moving up on Everest to get intro position for the next summit push, which is expected to come in the next few days. We’ll be keeping an eye on things as they play out, with our fingers crossed that everyone gets up and down the mountain safely.

Kraig Becker