Climbing Mt. Everest has long been the ultimate challenge for adventure-seekers and mountain climbers around the world. But climbing the world’s tallest mountain is dangerous. As more people attempt the climb, the number of deaths on Everest inevitably increases. The rise in fatalities on Everest has left some asking-just how many deaths is too many? At what point should climbing be banned on Mt. Everest?
The history of deaths while climbing Everest goes back to 1922. British climbers attempting to become the first to reach the summit were caught in an avalanche, leading to seven deaths. In the decades since, over 280 people have died climbing Everest. Since 1977, there has been at least one death every year.
Questions about the safety of climbing Everest came into the mainstream in 1996, when a blizzard caused the deaths of eight climbers. Another four climbers died that same year in separate incidents. At the time, it was the deadliest year ever on Everest.
Similar incidents have occurred again in recent years. In 2014, an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas. In 2015, an earthquake caused a massive avalanche which left 19 dead. Even without these catastrophic events, climbing Everest leads to a concerning number of deaths. In the following year, 2016, seven climbers died on Everest. Their causes of death include falls, altitude sickness, cardiac issues, stroke, and exposure.
These tragedies can be exacerbated by a number of factors. For one, there are often several expeditions on the mountain at once. This can lead to so-called “traffic jams”, where there are too many climbers trying to take the same routes to the summit. When bad weather strikes, these large groups of climbers are all vulnerable.
The large number of climbers and subsequent traffic jams can also mean that climbers are stuck near the summit for longer periods of time. This leaves climbers exposed to the elements for too long, increasing their risk of death. Due to the high altitude near the top of Everest, it’s impossible to survive for more than a few hours. Any delay at this height can be deadly.
There has also been an increase in the number of companies that assist climbers. It’s common practice for climbers to hire guides, often local Sherpas, to help them navigate the mountain and reach its peak. But as the demand for these services has increased, so has the number of companies. Not all of these companies are reputable. Some use cheap equipment and hire guides who are unprepared to assist climbers. These cost-cutting measures mean a lower price for climbers, but at what price?
Inexperienced guides and cheap equipment mean an even greater risk for climbers already undertaking a dangerous journey. Hikers have called on the Nepalese government to increase regulations and safety measures for climbers on Everest. In 2015, after two years of deadly disasters in a row, Nepal announced new requirements for those seeking permits to climb Everest. Beginning in 2016, climbers had to prove they had summited other large mountains. Very young, old, and disabled climbers were also banned.
With new regulations, it’s likely that we will see a decrease in deaths on Everest. However, nothing can entirely prevent these deaths. People who climb Everest do so because they want to challenge themselves. They want to feel the pride of having reached the top of the world’s highest mountain. Climbers must know the risks associated with Everest and make their decision to climb with those risks in mind. Rather than demanding a total ban on the climbing of Everest, climbers must accept responsibility for their decision to undertake what they know is a dangerous journey.