Three climbers have died from various causes during their descents of Mount Everest over the weekend, in the midst of the fast-approaching end to the climbing season. They were among the scores of climbers who are trying to complete their Everest excursions before the arrival of monsoon season and the closure of the official climbing season at the beginning of June.
Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with Nepal’s Mountaineering Department, announced the deaths that occurred over the weekend. They were Eberhard Schaaf, a 61-year-old German doctor from Aachen, Shriya Shah, 32, a Nepalese woman living in Canada, and Song Won-Bin, 44, a South Korean.
All three climbers were believed to have suffered from exhaustion and altitude sickness. Eberhard is believed to have died from high altitude cerebral edema.
This raises the total Everest death toll for 2012 to 6 people. Three sherpas died in April from altitude sickness, a stroke and a fall into a crevasse. Already 2012 has seen more deaths than 2011 in which four people died, and 2010 when a total of three people died.
Accomplished nature photographer and climber Cory Richards, who was documenting his team’s ascent of the peak, had to be carried off the mountain after he experienced severe respiratory issues on April 28th. Although he was slated to return to the mountain, doctors feared for his condition and he returned home to the United States instead.
About 150 people reached the summit on May 18 and 19. Weather conditions were clear during most of the weekend, but a windstorm swept the higher altitudes on Saturday afternoon.
The upcoming monsoon rains will force all climbers to leave the Himalayas at that time. Roughly 300 climbers are still looking to reach the summit before then, causing a major traffic jam on the mountain.
“With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen not anticipating the extra time spent,” Shrestha said in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Two more climbers, a Chinese national and his Nepalese Sherpa guide, have been reported as missing as of Saturday, May 19.
The video below is an interview with an accomplished Australian climber who almost died just below the summit because of altitude sickness on Everest in 2006.
Editor’s note added 5-22-2012: Just after publishing this, news of another death on Everest was released. A 55-year-old Chinese woman, Wen Ryi Ha and apparently the climber listed as missing when this article was originally written, has been confirmed to have perished during her descent of the mountain. This raises the death toll for the season to seven.
Photo: TausP. (flickr)