Overcrowding raises fears of more deaths on Everest | News | DW | 25.05.2012
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Overcrowding raises fears of more deaths on Everest

A wave of more than 200 climbers is headed for the top of Mount Everest, raising concerns about more accidents on the the world's highest mountain. The influx comes in a week that has already seen a number of deaths.

The mountaineers are anxious to reach the top before forecast bad weather sets in. But experts say the numbers of people crowding Everest's slopes are making the climb even more dangerous than it is already.

"Two hundred people climbing the mountain is too many for one weekend. Twenty-five to thirty a day is okay, but 200 is too many," said Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who holds a record for the fastest ascent of Everest.

"Waiting around on Everest is dangerous. Running out of oxygen can be a big problem."

The large influx of climbers comes as the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed on Thursday that a second German climber had died on Everest.

German news outlet Spiegel reported on its website that the incident involved an expedition leader from a tour company. The victim is reported to have broken his leg during his descent from the summit over the weekend. Spiegel said he died at an altitude of 8610 meters.

This latest incident followed the death of four climbers from Germany, South Korea, China and Canada also on Everest on Sunday. The climbers were part of a team of old classmates from the same high school in the central South Korean city of Daejeon.

Hazardous conditions

Conditions have been particularly hazardous this year, said Nepalese government official Gyanendra Shrestha, with high winds and heavy snowfall delaying the construction of makeshift bridges over precipices.

Sardar Tenzing Norgay of Nepal and Edmund P. Hillary of New Zealand

Sardar Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary first scaled the peak in 1953

The climbing season usually lasts from the end of March until the beginning of June, but weather conditions remained treacherous until last weekend. This prompted large numbers of climbers to begin their ascent all at once.

Climbers are advised to start their ascent no later than 11 a.m. as snowstorms descend during the afternoons. Due to large numbers of climbers over the weekend, the last expeditions set off at around 2:30 p.m..

The former president of the Kathmandu-based Nepal Mountaineering Expedition, Ang Tshering, has said authorities in Nepal should implement timetables to limit the number of climbers heading for the summit at any one time.

The world's tallest peak is particularly dangerous simply because of its height.

'Death zone'

Everest's "death zone," the region more than 8,000 meters above sea level, earned its name because it is almost impossible to survive the biting temperatures and lack of oxygen there for more than 48 hours.

"Most of these deaths occur due to high-altitude sickness," said Ang Tshering, "Climbers spend their energy on the ascent and they are exhausted and fatigued on the descent."

Two Nepali Sherpa climbers died on Everest in April, one falling into a crevasse at 5,900 meters and the other succumbing to altitude sickness at base camp.

Nearly 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first scaled it.

More than 200 people have died on the slopes of the giant peak. Six climbers have died on the mountain so far this year.

hw/tj/ng (AFP, dapd, AP)