Three deaths from altitude sickness, one death from falling, two climbers are missing, and about thirty are sick or have frostbite on Mount Everest. I have to wonder if expeditions are being rushed. Acclimating to altitude can take weeks and can’t be hurried. The standard procedure is to start at a lower camp, go higher for a few days, return to the lower camp, and repeat the process working up to higher camps. If this process is sped up because, say, the end of climbing season is nearing, the climbers may not be ready.
Confounding this is the unpredictable effects of altitude. I know of a world-class climber who has summited multiple 20,000+ foot mountains. She was helping lead a backpacking trip in the High Sierras and got such bad altitude sickness at 9,000 feet she had to be helped down the mountain.
And then of course there is the weather. Studies show that weather is a precipitating factor in many mountaineering deaths. You can be doing everything right but if a blizzard with high winds hits when you’re at 27,000 feet, well…
Still, the known effects of altitude don’t change. Yet three climbers are dead from altitude sickness. Does this indicate a lack of preparedness and perhaps rushed expeditions?
Legendary mountaineer Ed Viesturs says, “You don’t conquer Everest. You sort of sneak up on it then get the Hell down.”
Subash Paul, 44, died at Base Camp II from altitude sickness, according to Wangchu Sherpa, Managing Director of Trekking Camp Nepal.
Paul was part of a team (consisting of four Indian climbers and four Sherpas) that also saw two members — Paresh Chandra Nath and Goutam Ghosh — go missing Saturday night.
“It is not clear what happened. We believe the weather suddenly deteriorated at some point, and the team lost direction,” Wanchu Sherpa said.