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Corpses, collapses and pensioners on Mount Everest

May 26, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The discovery of four corpses inside a tent at Mount Everest’s highest camp, the latest of several bizarre incidents in the region over recent weeks, has focused attention on the world’s tallest mountain.

Members of a team sent up Everest to recover the body of Slovak mountaineer Vladimir Strba, who died last weekend, were disconcerted to find four corpses sitting in a tent. The deceased were presumably climbers but their identities are unknown.

Strba’s body was later recovered. Six climbers have died trying to reach the Everest summit (8850 metres) so far this climbing season and authorities are concerned about some of their ages. One was aged 85.

Authorities are calling for age limits. The issue surfaced after the death of climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, who had once set a record as the oldest climber to reach the summit before it was broken in 2013 by the Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, then aged 80.

Determined not to be outdone, Min set off at the age of 85 to reclaim his record but died in the attempt, suffering a suspected heart attack.

President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Ang Tshering Sherpa, told the Guardian the age limit should be 16 years to 76 years. A 13-year-old from California recently made the climb.

Disabled climbers are also trying to scale the mountain and veteran mountaineers warn that the peak now risks becoming overcrowded. Novices are stumbling up the slopes without oxygen and with their ice crampons on the wrong feet.

Potentially making things worse, a renowned rocky outcrop near the peak, called the Hillary Step, was destroyed by the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

The Hillary Step is a vertical rock climb. While its collapse may make reaching the summit easier technically, the path is now very narrow and can involve long periods in bitterly cold temperatures. Even in the warmest month, July, the average temperature on Everest is minus 19C, and it can get much colder.

If numbers of climbers continue to rise, those unused to high altitudes may freeze to death while waiting for enough room to make the final ascent.

All of these hazards can be avoided by sitting at home instead and watching it on television over a cup of cocoa, but obviously there’s nothing like the real thing.

Written by Peter Needham

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