Natural wonders are a sight to behold, so much so, that overcrowding is becoming a serious problem at these types of tourist destinations. To say you have climbed Mount Everest has always been the ultimate adventurer bragging right. The death toll at Mount Everest is up to 11 (as of 29May2019) and that number is expected to increase this climbing season. Is overcrowding to blame or is it a series of factors causing these fatalities?
A series of photos released this week from National Geographic show infinite lines of people waiting to reach the summit of Mount Everest. According to an eyewitness, people were stuck because one couple would not move over and let people pass. This caused a snowball effect and people were forced to wait and run through their supplies quicker than planned.
Due to the current season’s death toll, Nepalese officials are proposing setting criteria for hopeful climbers. Currently, inexperienced climbers are being allowed to trek up the mountain if they have a passport, limited biographical data, and a good bill of health from a doctor. Basically, if you can pay for your guide, then someone will attempt to take you up the mountain. This practice is allowing too many people on the mountain at one time and is proving to put trekkers in a deadly situation.
New Expedition Groups
Another issue plaguing the mountain is the emergence of local Sherpas (tour guides) from Katmandu, Nepal. Nepal is one of Asia’s poorest countries and it relies heavily on the tourism industry. Sherpas on the Nepal side of the mountain offer discounted treks and will let even the most inexperienced climber on the tour if they have the cash. The death toll this year from the Chinese side of the mountain was two, compared to the nine deaths from the Nepal side.
Last year, media outlets and insurance companies uncovered a conspiracy. They discovered hospitals, helicopter evacuation companies, teahouse owners, and even some guides in Nepal were swindling millions of dollars from trekker’s insurance companies. Guides would push climbers to use expensive evacuation services if they showed even the slightest sign of altitude sickness. Teahouses were caught sprinkling contaminants into food, so trekkers would need a costly helicopter evacuation from Everest.
Expedition leaders do not blame the overcrowding for the rising death toll. They believe that a party’s bad decisions led to their deaths. Some leaders did not advise their groups to lower their oxygen flow while waiting for other people to pass. This can cause major issues later when a climber relies heavily on bottled oxygen for the trek through the highest parts of the mountain.
With the crowds and the increased wait times, these decisions matter and can be the sole reason why a trekker lives or dies. Some people tried to go back down the mountain and found themselves running out of supplies with no one willing to share. Perhaps waiting in line would have been a better alternative? I guess we will never know.
One thing is for sure, Nepalese officials desperately need to review the acceptance procedures for trekkers on the Nepal side of the mountain. Inexperience, bad planning, and failure to monitor the number of trekkers climbing the mountain have cost tourists their lives.