Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak at 8,848 metres, draws adventurers from all over. But the mountain on the Nepal-China border is fast becoming a dangerous place to visit even for the hardened mountaineer.
Risk of climbing to Everest
The inherent risks were this month highlighted with a photograph by Nirmal Purja, a Gorkha ex-soldier. The image, which went viral and altered the manner in which people worldwide imagine what it is to scale Mt. Everest, showed a long queue awaiting to climb Everest, with all the dangers such a wait holds. This season, at least 10 climbers have died or gone missing, including four Indians.
Number of visitors
Experts have been calling for Nepal to restrict the number of permits. It awarded a record 381 for this spring, each fetching $11,000 (climbing from the Tibet side is more expensive). On Wednesday, 200 climbers ascended the summit, a new record for a single day. Last year, 807 managed to reach the summit. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that there were more than 26,000 visitors to the Everest region, and this figure has grown manifold since then.
Risks at climbing
Nepal officials argue that permits are not issued recklessly, and that jams such as this year’s near the summit are on account of spells of bad weather, which result in mountaineers being compelled to summit within a narrow time-frame. Waiting in sub-zero temperatures at the rarefied altitude can be fatal — this season’s deaths were mostly due to frostbite, exhaustion, dehydration and lack of oxygen.
The commercial operations have led to the Everest being called the world’s highest garbage dump as many climbers discard non-critical gear and fail to clean up the mess. It is unlikely, however, that this season’s tragedies will deter future summiteers, as the hypnotic lure remains intact.