Mount Everest is one of the tallest and deadliest mountains in the world. The mountain, since its first ascent, has been the reason behind 300 deaths. Not everyone who has gone to Everest has been lucky enough to return. And the Khumbu Icefall is one of the main places on Everest that has seen the deaths of many mountaineers. The Khumbu Icefall lies at the top of the Khumbu Glacier and the base of the Western Cwm on the Nepali slopes of Mount Everest, barely above Base Camp and southwest of the summit, at a height of 5,486 meters. Surviving the Khumbu Icefall is so dangerous that even enormous rope and ladder chains set up by skilled guides are ineffective in preventing death.
The only to avoid death, or simply the dangers of Khumbu Icefall, is to take a completely different and easier route. Among all the stages that a mountaineer will likely go through when he takes the South Col route, the Khumbu Icefall route is the most dangerous and deadly.
We have summed up everything that you need to know about Khumbu Icefall, along with the deaths and the bodies in this area, in this article. Make sure to read till the end to know more!
Khumbu Icefall Deaths
The deaths in Khumbu Icefall are very common. Moreover, over the years, there have been cases where parts of the bodies of a dead mountaineer have been spotted in the Khumbu Icefall. While the older bodies remain in the mountain, the recent dead bodies are brought down from Mount Everest. Between the years 1953 and 2023, there has been a total of 47 deaths in the Icefall, according to the data of the official Himalayan Database records. Likewise, in the year 2023 itself, three mountain climbers have already died in Khumbu Icefall.
There has been many attempts by mountaineers to search for a better and safer route in comparison to the Khumbu icefall to avoid deaths, but to this day, the search has led to no avail. When a mountaineer takes the Nepali route up the mountain, he has to go through the Khumbu Icefall. Likewise, while one can avoid Khumbu Icefall from the Tibetan route, chances are he will face a harder time tackling a way through the route to the summit. Therefore, most mountaineers have been taking the Nepali route, which has been the reason behind the deaths of many in Khumbu Icefall.
Khumbu Icefall Bodies
In the Khumbu Icefall area, as the glaciers start melting, more bodies of dead mountaineers tend to appear. Bodies tend to appear without warning, especially in the Khumbu Glacier, as the land there is flat.
An official from an active non-government organization working in the area says, “Hands and legs of dead bodies have appeared at the base camp as well in the last few years. We have noticed that the ice level at and around the base camp has been going down, and that is why the bodies are becoming exposed.”
Though Sherpas have been employed just in order to remove the bodies from the mountain, it has yet not been possible because many older dead bodies in the mountain, as a whole, as well as the Khumbu Icefall, have rotted or perished completely by the mountain. Whereas many newer bodies tend to appear or get exposed as more glaciers melt with time. Many bodies remain in the Khumbu Icefall as a mystery still, while few others have appeared and been discovered by people from other expeditions or Sherpas.
Khumbu Icefall Avalanche 2014
Khumbu Icefall has been one that has seen the deaths of many for numerous causes over the years. However, one of the most recent disasters that took place in Khumbu Icefall was the Avalanche in 2014. On April 18, 2014, a total of 16 Nepalese mountaineers were killed in an avalanche at around 6:30 am local time in Khumbu Icefall. Unfortunately, only 13 bodies were found. Likewise, nine of the mountaineers who survived had suffered from blunt trauma injuries.
This incident took place during the spring expedition when the climbers were looking to find a way out through the dangerous route and became the victim of the dreadful avalanche.
Why is the Khumbu Icefall so dangerous?
Khumbu Icefall is dangerous to climb, even with ropes and gears installed by professionals. Most of the reason lies in it being a glacier. The ice regularly moves, and around it are huge crevasses and seracs, or giant ice blocks. This has proven to be one of the most fatal reasons why many mountaineers have lost their lives in the Khumbu Icefall. The movements of the crevasses happen in the glimpse of an eye. The icefall is said to move 1 meter every day, and during the climbing season, it tends to move even more and frequently. Hence, mountain climbers really don’t get the chance to make a move out safely.
It is not uncommon for a potential Everest climber to feel a sense of chill when they hear about the deaths that have taken place in Khumbu Icefall. Furthermore, the pictures of the icefall shown in the pictures of older mountaineers can be seen as a challenge by newer climbers. These mountaineers are seen wearing gigantic and protective mountain boots and going through a ladder which really does not look safe given the fact that the ice hole beneath them looks sharp, cold, and deep, to say the least!
The most dangerous icefall in the world
Khumbu Icefall is the most dangerous icefall in the world for all the legit reasons. The passage to the Khumbu Icefall is unbelievably difficult. If one is a beginner or even an intermediate-level mountaineer, then it really would be wise for him to avoid going to Khumbu Icefall at all. The notorious icefall is so risky and deadly that even the most experienced Sherpas from the area tend to avoid it or fear going through it.
While the safest route to the top of Mount Everest has been called the South Col, that really is not the case, at least entirely. One of the toughest tackling must be done in the Khumbu Glacier area when you are in the South Col route. What makes choosing a route harder is when you choose a route from Tibet, you can avoid the South Col, but you have to go through an even more challenging trail than the former. Hence, for many, it is almost a compulsion to cross the Khumbu Icefall safely to summit the mountain.