When climbers try to reach the summit of Mount Everest, they must face a morbid fact: when the mountain takes a life, it often holds onto it for quite some time.
The body count of people remaining on Everest is now more than 200: when climbers die, often it is impossible to retrieve them. As Rachel Nuwer wrote for BBC Future last year: “Climbers and Sherpas lie tucked into crevasses, buried under avalanche snow and exposed on catchment basin slopes – their limbs sun-bleached and distorted.” The bodies on the peak are now so abundant that in some cases, climbers must step over some to reach the summit.
Now BBC News reports that three more climbers have died on the mountain in the space of four days: Subhash Paul from India, Eric Ary Arnold from Holland and Maria Strydom from Australia. And Paul’s team-mates have also been reported missing since Saturday.
Everest’s peak has been conquered so many times that it is easy to forget just how deadly it can be
Everest’s peak has been conquered so many times that it is easy to forget just how deadly it can be. Many climbers die in storms or falls, but for others it is simply the altitude that proves too much. In the “death zone” near the summit, the mind shuts down along with the body, leading to extreme lethargy and poor decisions.
For a sobering reminder of Everest’s dangers, the graphs below show the tally of lives that the mountain has claimed, up to October 2015:
Source: Richard Salisbury and Elizabeth Hawley, Himalaya Database. Note: In some cases, multiple deaths in one location eg in 2015 an earthquake killed 18 (Credit: Nigel Hawtin)
Source: Richard Salisbury and Elizabeth Hawley, Himalaya Database (Credit: Nigel Hawtin)
From time-to-time, the deaths become so frequent and distressing that climbing is suspended, but there’s a lot of money to be made for companies willing to take the risk – and it seems there is no end to the queue of people prepared to put their life on the line on the roof of the world.
Read more in a special two-part in-depth story by Rachel Nuwer about the growing problem of the deaths on Everest, what makes climbers continue to risk their lives, and the sad story of the most famous body on its slopes: