Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, the peak of the Himalayas, and one of the Seven Wonders. It has always been a bucket list destination for many travelers and mountaineers. Unfortunately, this same mountain is also one of the most lethal mountains for its visitors. Yet, its nature of killing many has not stopped climbers from desiring to conquer its summit.
World’s tallest mountain has a rough prominence with a horrible record for causing deaths on mountains. Uncountable people have attempted to reach the summit, but only a few have succeeded, and even fewer have returned safely. Famed as “Eight-thousanders,” Everest is the only one of the 14 mountains above 8,000 meters in height.
Summiting at over 8000m is no wonder so strenuous both mentally and on the body (mainly heart and lungs). So climbers should be prepared for everything, including their physical and mental condition. Because even reaching its base camp is also the hard task for trekkers who are fit on foot. At 8,848.86 meters or 29,0129 feet, Mt. Everest rises far above sea level, which means you have to trek five and a half miles above sea level to reach its peak. So now you can imagine why people climb Mt Everest.
Climbers can claim the summit is a newsworthy accomplishment. George Mallory was an English mountaineer who attempted to summit, and when asked why he wanted to climb it, he simply answered, “Because it’s there.” His body was found after 75 years in the mountains.
What Is the Leading Cause of Death on Everest?
Various factors kill most of the climbers on Everest. Here are some challenges that are leading climbers to their death in recent years.
Everest’s Death Zone
A part above the 26,000 feet/ 8,000 meters of Mountain Everest is known as the “Death Zone.” At such a high elevation, mountaineers simply lack oxygen to sustain the human body. So mountaineers ascend without enough supplemental oxygen with them. There will be a limited time before your body starts to surrender.
Impairment of cognitive abilities is the most significant consequence that a climber can face if they spend too much time in this death zone. These severe consequences have led many climbs to death in the past year as they walk off the cliff after their cognitive abilities become impaired. A study conducted between 1921 and 2006 on Everest deaths has reflected that 59 out of 94 climbers died because of their disappearances or falls. Similarly, 36% of dead mountaineers suffer from severe exhaustion, whereas 22% suffer from visible cognitive impairment.
Climbers around this zone experience a slowdown as they try to ascend the mountain. This slow ascend exposes mountaineers to altitude sickness, hypothermia, and exhaustion. Most deaths above 8,000 meters occurred among climbers descending from the summit who could not escape the death zone.
Another leading death cause on Everest is altitude sickness. According to the reports, between 1921 and 2006, only altitude sickness claimed the lives of around 52 climbers.
Acute mountain Sickness, or AMS, is not as fatal as it sounds, but it does make a mountaineer feel crummy. Up to now, AMS has affected up to 77% of travelers ascending to an elevation between 6,000 and 19,300 feet.
Climbers with AMS symptoms should immediately stop their climb. If the symptoms do not improve within 1 or 2 days, they must go down Everest. If a climber’s altitude sickness worsens, severe AMS comes in two forms, ascending one HAPE and another HACE. In high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), the lungs become filled with fluid, whereas in high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), the skull fills with fluid. The only treatment for these conditions is descending to Everest’s base camp and evacuating them with helicopters to lower regions. Without immediate treatment, HAPE and HACE can rapidly lead to death. To illustrate, ascending beyond 9,800 feet only impacts a minority of individuals, with HACE afflicting less than 1%. Notably, a significant number of HACE cases arise from pre-existing AMS.
Avalanches, Icefall and Rockfall:-
Mt. Everest has seen some of its deadliest moments due to hazards like avalanches, icefall, and rockfall. Altitude-related conditions can be fatal for mountaineers, but these hazards can kill many at once, mainly if climbers are roped together.
An avalanche that occurred in 2015 at the Everest Base Camp was responsible for the demise of 22 climbers. An example of this occurred in 2015. In 2015, avalanches at the Everest base camp claimed the lives of 22 climbers.
This devastating avalanche, triggered by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, was one of the largest ever witnessed near Everest’s climbing route. Moreover, in 2014, 16 Nepali climbers were swept off the mountain in an avalanche. But before 2006, avalanches were only responsible for the death of six individuals on Everest.
Climbers face greater risks if they spend too much time above the elevation. If the mountaineers get decent on time, getting them a definitive therapy is easier. When climbers are stuck in huge lines, they are not eating, sleeping, or drinking. They are depleting oxygen reserves by opting for auxiliary tanks.
Causes and Ratio To The Total No of Death
The cause list is the same for eight-thousanders, including the Mountain of Everest. The main causes are exhaustion, falls, avalanches, mountain sickness, rockfalls, and frostbite. A total of 310 climbers have died while summiting Everest. This is a rough figure from the first ascent attempt from the 1920s to 2023. The three main factors that caused the death of climbers on Everest are avalanches, collapses and falls. Avalanches have been listed as the leading cause of death because they caused many fatalities during the disasters in 2014 and 2015. These top factors occur when the climber has already reached the top and is descending. During descends, your body gets exhausted, and concentration is also reduced.
|falls and falls||71 persons||(23,2%)|
|mountain sickness||36 people||(11,7%)|
|illnesses (cold, flu, pneumonia)||25 persons||(8,5%)|
|collapses on Khumbu Ice Falls||15 persons||(8,2%)|
|falls in cracks||11 people||(4,9%)|
|lost without a trace||9 people||(3,6%)|
|other reasons||7 people||(2.3%)|
|stone falls||3 people||(1%)|
Why Aren’t Dead Bodies Removed From Everest?
Mount Everest is too harsh, so it’s simply not possible to remove everybody from the mountains. Even for the most experienced and fitted mountaineer, climbing to the summit or returning safely from a failed attempt cannot be guaranteed. Some reasons why dead bodies have not been removed are:-
Dangers of Everest:-
This may surprise you, but most of the dead bodies of climbers will remain there forever. But the reason to leave the body behind instead of bring it back down is purely logical. Mt Everest’s location is the main reason that almost makes the body’s recovery almost impossible. Otherwise, if the location is reachable, it will take too long to come back unharmed under the compacted snow and ice. Some dead bodies here have been blown over the edge by the wind or on the rock faces that have never been walked.
Another reason why the body has not been brought down is because of the high Cost it demands. Retrieving the body is very difficult and sometimes impossible and too expensive. If the climbers’ body is resting above Camp 2 (21,000ft), the body must be carried down to the lower elevation as it cannot be retrieved by helicopter above 21,000ft. To successfully retrieve a body, it takes a team of professionals, rescuers, and sherpas capable of digging for the frozen body. Lets say that team found the frozen body but carrying the weight of the frozen body down to the mountain makes this rescue process even harder. So for a single body retrieval, the costs reach $40,000 to $80,000, and not everyone can afford this.
Climber’s Family Wish:-
Not all mountaineer’s families want their bodies to be retrieved after their death. They prefer their bodies to remain on Everest if they lose their lives in the process of climbing the peak. Due to this reason, many dead climbers’ family has blocked the recovery attempts from Everest.
Mountain Everest holds a special place among the mountaineers as the tallest mountain. But at least several mountaineers meet their end on this mountain every season. Due to this, the death rate is higher among the climbs than the other similar elevation peaks. With time, Mountain Everest has become more accessible than ever for its climbers, and climbers are aiming to conquer it more than ever before. But still, it poses many dangers.