The numbers are for the spring climbing season on Everest and as expected, there was a record number of summits on the world’s highest peak this past spring. Last week, the Nepali and Tibetan governments released their official summit data and according to reports 885 people reached the top of the mountain. That easily surpasses last year’s total, which was when the previous record of 807 successful summits was set.
The news of a new record for total summits in a single season probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been following the climbing season closely. We knew early on that more than 1100 permits has been issued to climb Everest this spring, which was also a record. Beyond that however, photos and videos from the mountain showed the tremendous crowds that had gathered there this spring as well, with traffic jams on the South Side in Nepal holding people in place for hours at a time while they waited for their chance to stand on the summit.
Sadly, the season also saw 11 deaths for various reasons. Some of the climbers took hill due to the altitude and there were a few that fell on the descent. The exact causes of those fatalities as been open for debate, with some saying the traffic jams played a major role in some of those deaths, while others place the blame on inexperienced climbers, poorly organized low-coast expedition operators, and variety of other variables. Either way, the high number of deaths has sparked a debate surrounding Everest and whether or not we can make it safer to climb moving forward.
As expected, the vast majority of the successful summits this season came from the South Side of the mountain. According to reports, 644 people reached the top from the Nepali side of the mountain, while 241 topped out from the North Side in Tibet. Officials in China say that number is actually three fewer than last year as the government looks to limit access to the mountain to a degree. The largest number of summiteers came from the United States, although there were also sizable contingents from India and China too. The growth in the number of climbers coming to Everest over the past few years has mainly been from those two countries.
Moving forward, I think it is safe to say that we can expect this year’s trends to continue. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that Nepal will make any moves to limit the number of permits from its side of the mountain, which means traffic jams could be a real possibility in the years ahead. In fact, they could get worse depending on how the weather alters the summit window. We should also expect the number of mountaineers attempting Everest to continue to grow as the low-cost operators make an expedition much more feasible for more people. Hopefully there can be some guidelines put in place to help make things safer, but for the most part the 2019 spring season looks like it could become the new norm, for better or for worse.
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