This climbing season on Mount Everest is expected to be busy and potentially dangerous this year, as climbers face “traffic jams” as they attempt to summit.
The Nepalese government has issued 371 permits to foreigners this year, a record number. Combined with the number of Nepali Sherpa mountain guides, the number of people on the mountain rockets to 800.
Mid-May is considered an ideal time to summit, as winds subside and give climbers a better chance at reaching Everest’s peak at 29,029 feet. Climbers only have three or four ideal days to summit per season, increasing the risk of overcrowding.
Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, a seasoned guide who has summited Everest six times, says the large numbers are a top concern: “Our discussions around base camp are often focused on the same issue: what to do if traffic-related problems occur.”
The previous year he and his clients were held up at the “Hillary Step,” an area of the final climb that requires climbers to ascend on fixed ropes, and two of his clients lost their toes waiting for their turn in the extreme cold.
Kuntal Joisher, an Indian climber who summited in 2016, identified two of the main dangers associated with waiting during these “traffic jams”: you are more likely to suffer from frostbite if you are standing still for too long, and you waste precious bottled oxygen.
Already one life has been lost on the mountain this season. On April 30, Swiss climber Ueli Steck fell to his death during a training run near Mount Everest.
Top and lead photo by Mário Simoes, CC BY 2.0.
Madison Gable is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.