Two climbers from the United States and Switzerland have died on Mount Everest, the first deaths of this year’s season, organizers of the Nepal expedition said Thursday.
On average, about five climbers die each year on the world’s highest peak.
But in recent seasons, Everest has seen an increase in the number of climbers, resulting in overcrowding which has been blamed for several deaths.
“Two climbers died on Wednesday,” Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks told AFP.
Swiss climber Abdul Waraich, 40, died near the summit after reaching the summit and suffering from exhaustion, said Chhang Dawa Sherpa of the same organization.
“We sent two more Sherpas with oxygen and food, unfortunately the Sherpas couldn’t save him,” he said on Instagram.
American Puwei Liu, 55, reached the Hillary Step but was helped back down after suffering from snow blindness and exhaustion, organizers said.
He was able to reach Camp 4, “before suddenly passing away” Wednesday evening, said Chhang Dawa Sherpa.
Eleven people died climbing the world’s highest peak in 2019, four dead from overpopulation.
In one day, 354 people lined up to reach the summit from the southern side of Nepal and the northern approach to Tibet.
To relieve the crowds, Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism announced rules limiting the number of people who can reach the top of the mountain in a suitable window of time.
The organizers of the expedition were urged to send teams to the summit strictly in accordance with permit numbers or to limit the number of climbers at the same time.
– Record the number of permits –
The coronavirus pandemic wiped out last year’s season, but Nepal has relaxed quarantine rules to attract more climbers despite struggling to treat them if they contract the virus.
Nepal has issued 408 climbing permits this season, surpassing the previous record of 381 in 2019.
A tent city hosting more than 1,000 foreign climbers and support staff has formed at the foot of Everest and the hotels along the trek are back in business.
The warmer weather that ushers in safer conditions for climbing Nepal’s dangerous snow-capped peaks has coincided with a deadly second wave of Covid-19 infections.
In recent weeks, more than 30 sick climbers have been evacuated from base camp although only three have been confirmed to have had coronavirus.
The usual communal parties are absent this year in base camps after expedition groups have been urged to stay alone and avoid socializing with others.
Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes, so any outbreak of coronavirus among the climbing groups could pose serious health risks.
Chinese state media reported on Sunday that authorities would be installing a “dividing line” on the summit of Mount Everest to prevent possible Covid-19 infections from mountaineers in the virus-stricken Nepal.
The highest peak in the world straddles the Sino-Nepalese border, with the northern slope belonging to China.
Tibetan authorities told reporters they would take “the strictest epidemic prevention measures” to avoid contact between climbers on the northern and southern slopes or at the summit, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The guides would establish demarcation lines at the summit before allowing the climbers to begin the grueling ascent, the head of the Tibet Mountaineering Association said as quoted by Xinhua.
China has banned foreign nationals from climbing Everest since last year due to the virus outbreak.
© 2021 AFP