It’s known as one of the greatest challenges on earth, pushing even the most hardened adrenaline junkies to their absolute limit.
People will often describe a difficult feat they are facing as ‘their Everest’, but, really, nothing compares.
This is an expedition which tests the limits of human endurance. Mountaineers risk suffocation, starvation, retinal haemorrhages, frostbite and hypothermia as they climb, with the bodies of those who came before them marking their path.
Scaling this cold and unforgiving giant is therefore not for the faint-hearted, and certainly something that I – who feels overwhelmed just by photographs of Everest – could never even begin to consider.
However, there are many who are drawn to its icy beauty, drawn to the Himalayan mountain each Spring season with dreams of reaching that fabled summit.
There are only a few days of the year where it is possible for mountaineers to reach the top, a factor which causes a rush among climbers, who may have been waiting for some weeks for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Although many of us may envision the top of Everest to be quiet and peaceful, this brief window leads to ‘traffic jams’ of climbers, who must get to the top and down very quickly to replenish their oxygen supply. One small slip up can cause multiple fatalities.
As reported by The New York Times, there has been a noted increase in the number of Mt. Everest climbers this year, leading to expedition companies and government officials dividing them into groups to allow them to climb within the brief available period.
A reported 122 climbers were scheduled to climb on May 21, with 297 on May 22 and 172 on May 23. The New York Times have reported how climbers have been stuck queuing in the notorious ‘death zone’ for hours on end.
Images taken at the summit show climbers lining up at high altitude, with at least ten people said to have died on the mountain last week alone.
At least two climbers are reported to have died of exhaustion after waiting for hours in the death zone, unable to get up and down with enough speed.
As if climbing Everest wasn't dangerous enough – a record number of climbing permits and a narrow window of good weather this year have resulted in queues and bottlenecks near the summit.@AFPgraphics showing the route to the summit of Mount Everest from Nepal pic.twitter.com/v8m1SaAKRO
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 24, 2019
Local Sherpas have stated that some of the climbers had not been fit enough to be on the mountain in the first place.
Sherpa guide Tshering Jangbu Sherpa told The New York Times:
I have climbed Everest so many times, but this spring’s traffic jam was the worst,
Many climbers who moved to the summit without extra supplement oxygen bottles suffered the most. They suffered because of the traffic jam, not because of wind and coldness.
Its hard to believe but its a queue at Hilary step on Mount Everest. There is a traffic jam of people who want to climb Mt. Everest. Carrying capacity ?? pic.twitter.com/ROKEZEfDz1
— Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) May 24, 2019
However, tourism officials have rejected the notion that overcrowding had led to these deaths.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.