Improved Safety On Mount Qomolangma Reduces Fatalities On Northern Face, But Nepal Is Not So Lucky
2019-06-16
The number of climbers reaching the summit of Mount Qomolangma (Mount Everest) this season reached up as high as 241 on the Chinese side of the mountain alone, and the safety improvements initiated by the Chinese region’s Mountaineering Safety Management team led to a record low for deaths on the North Face of the mountain in recent years.
 
Mount Qomolangma, the world's highest mountain, on the border between Nepal and China's Tibet Autonomous Region
Mount Qomolangma, the world's highest mountain, on the border between Nepal and China's Tibet Autonomous Region

After a very successful season of climbing on the Tibetan side of the mountain from April 10 to May 30, 12 Chinese mountaineers, 21 Chinese guides, 94 foreign mountaineers, and 108 Sherpa guides and porters actually made it to the summit of the massive mountain. This year, part of the new measures for safety on the mountain included reducing and restricting the numbers of mountaineers that would be able to attempt the climb to the summit during the spring mountaineering season. Measures also included limiting the length of the climbing season, maintaining the ropes and ladders on the routes to the summit, and setting higher requirements for climbers wanting to make the attempt to reach the summit. These higher requirements included limiting access to the mountain to climbers with little to no experience in mountaineering.

Climbing the North Face of Mount Qomolangma in Tibet, with ladders and ropes to aid even experienced mountaineers.
Climbing the North Face of Mount Qomolangma in Tibet, with ladders and ropes to aid even experienced mountaineers.
 
However, despite the best efforts of the Tibet Mountaineering Association and the addition of a new ladder in one section of the climbing route and more than 6,000 meters of ropes on the section above 6,600 meters to the summit, two climbers died on the northern slopes of the mountain due to exhaustion from the extreme physical demands that the mountain puts on even the most experienced mountaineer.

A line of climbers heading to Camp 4 on Mount Everest last month.
A line of climbers heading to Camp 4 on Mount Everest last month.
 
Climbing the mountain in Nepal, however, has had a more disastrous turn of events this year, with 10 climbers dying on the slopes of the mountain. The highest number of climbers was seen on the Nepal climbing lists in history this year, with 381 mountaineers making the attempt to reach the summit from the southern side of the mountain. This is a massive increase of 9% on last year’s total of 347 climbers. The highest number of deaths on the mountain since the deadly avalanches of 2014 and 2015, which killed 17 and 19 climbers respectively, the rise in the death toll in the infamous “Death Zone” of the mountain has raised concerns over the safety issues and lack of proper management of climbing on the Nepali side of the world’s highest mountain.

Photo taken on May 21 on Mount Everest's northern slopes on the Hillary Step as climbers  wait for their turn to take a photo at the summit.
Photo taken on May 21 on Mount Everest's northern slopes on the Hillary Step as climbers  wait for their turn to take a photo at the summit.
 
The southern slopes of the mountain in the Death Zone above 8,000 meters saw a “traffic jam’ of people waiting in line to reach the summit. Photos of the long queues of climbers, some of whom were inexperienced in high-altitude mountaineering, went viral on social media last month, causing concerns that the Nepali government were doing nothing to ensure safety in one of the most dangerous places on the planet. While the congestion was not the direct cause of the ten deaths on the mountain in Nepal, it is suspected that it contributed to the deaths, with climbers waiting for hours to get their turn at reaching the summit and experiencing insufficient oxygen, loss of energy, and being left out in the severe weather conditions prevalent above 8,000 meters. One climber, Donald Cash of Utah in the United States, collapsed while taking photos at the summit after a two-hour wait in the long queue. Mr. Cash died while being taken down the mountain by Sherpas, and is just one of many fatalities that have coined the phrase “It is a fine line between ‘died climbing Everest’ and ‘froze to death in the queue to take a selfie at the summit’.

Hundreds of people queue on the sheer cliff face of the Southern Face of Mount Everest, waiting for their turn to reach the summit.
Hundreds of people queue on the sheer cliff face of the Southern Face of Mount Everest, waiting for their turn to reach the summit.
 
The incident in this climbing season has also caused the Nepali government to make a U-turn on their previous statements of policy made by the secretary of Nepal's Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mohan Krishna Sapkota. She was previously quoted as saying that the government of Nepal had no intention of restricting the number of permits that would be issued for scaling Mount Everest, and even encouraged more climbers to come to the mountain for the “fame” of reaching the summit. The latest comments from the tourism ministry have suggested that the government will now be discussing reforms of the issues concerned, including setting stricter criteria for allowing climbers onto the mountain.

Green Boots, believed to be Indian climber, Tsewang Paljor, in his cave on the higher slopes of Mount Everest since 1996.
Green Boots, believed to be Indian climber, Tsewang Paljor, frozen to death in this shallow cave on the higher slopes of Mount Everest since 1996.
TAG: Mount Everest mount qomolangma death toll on mountain 12 dead on everest reduced deaths on Chinese side

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