Nepal | January 23, 2020

‘Congestion didn’t cause Everest deaths’

Sherpa guides say true climbers know when to turn back

Rajan Pokhrel

Kathmandu, June 4

The spring climbing season has ended with at least nine fatalities on Mt Everest, but none of the climbers’ died due to congestion on the world’s highest peak, claim sherpa guides.

The Department of Tourism issued a record number of 381 permits to climbers to scale Mt Everest this season, while climbers found three weather windows to push for the summit between May 16 and 27 after a team of climbing Sherpas opened a route to the summit on May 14.

Over 200 climbers had to wait for nearly two hours in queues at bottlenecks on their way to the summit on May 22. But climbers who died on that day were not stuck in the jam, climbing guides told this daily in Kathmandu.

Deaths on Sagarmatha
Date Deceased Handling Agency
May 16 Seamus Lawless (Ireland) Seven Summit Treks
May 17 Ravi Thakar (India) Seven Summit Treks
May 22 Donald Lynn Cash (US) Pioneer Adventure
May 22 Anjali Kulkarni (India) Transcend Adventures
May 23 Kalpana Das (India) Dreamers Destination
May 23 Nihal Bagwan (India) Peak Promotion
May 24 Dhurba Bista (Nepal) Himalayan Ski Trek
May 25 Robin Fisher (UK) Everest Parivar Treks
May 27 Christopher Kulish (US) TAG Nepal

Indian climber Anjali Kulkarni died below the balcony area after she fell ill while heading to the summit, Gyaljen Sherpa, who guided the 54-year-old climber, said. “She couldn’t even reach the area where other climbers were reportedly stuck in a jam,” he said, adding that she had refused to abandon her summit push as she claimed she had invested the past decade’s earnings to make it to the summit this season.

Lakpa Norbu and Pas Tenji Sherpa claimed that they tried their best to save their American client — Utah climber Donald Lynn Cash — who breathed his last below the Hillary Step after he fell at the top of summit while asking Pas Tenji for a summit photo on May 22. Pas Tenji said traffic jam above South Col didn’t have any link to his death as they made it to the summit at around 9:15am.

“A bit of a crowd was seen above the balcony area on May 23 as well, but my client wasn’t exposed to it,” said Lakpa Rinji Sherpa who was with Indian climber Nihal Bagwan. Nihal died at Camp IV after sherpas rescued him from the balcony area. “Bagwan fell ill below the south summit, but he turned down my request to descend from there,” said Sherpa, who suffered frostbite injuries to his hands. “Ignorance, not congestion, took his life,” added Sherpa.

Indian climber Kalpana Das was guided by Gelbu Sherpa and Pemba Chhiri Sherpa on Mt Everest this season. “We had time and again requested her to abandon the summit push after she couldn’t move above the balcony area,” Gelbu said. “It took her more than 18 hours to reach the summit from Camp IV.” There was no congestion when she reached above the South Col, he added. Das, who complained of weakness, died near the balcony area on the descent.

Other climbers, including Irish professor Seamus Lawless, Indian climber Ravi Thakar, National Mountain Guide Dhurba Bista, British climber Robin Fisher and Colorado attorney Christopher Kulish died on days when there was no rush on Mt Everest, their guides told THT.

Gyanendra Shrestha, a liaison officer, who spent nearly a month at the base camp this season, also said that no one died due to traffic jam this season.

Traffic jam often occurs every season, said Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, an international mountain guide who was on Everest this season.

“Traffic jam didn’t kill people on Mt Everest. They died due to their own stupidity and ego. If they are true mountaineers, they should listen to their body and should know when to turn back. Everyone knows climbing Everest is a dangerous game. You could pay with your life,” a renowned mountaineer Ang Tshering Lama, who guided two Sherpa widows to the top of the world this season, said.


A version of this article appears in print on June 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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