4 climbers die in 4 days on Mount Everest, 2 others missing
Four people have died within four days on Mount Everest, including a Sherpa, while two others have gone missing.
Danger is inherent in climbing the world's highest peak 29,035 feet. There has been at least one fatality every year since 1990, according to Nepal's tourism department. And more than 200 climbers have died since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent in 1953.
May is the most common time to attempt a climb because there tends to be less wind. Regardless, the climate on the mountain is brutal. Temperatures range from -31 to -4 Fahrenheit.
But the recent deaths, coming so quickly on the heels of one another, have rattled climbers who are now beginning their descent as the climbing season comes to an end.
April was the first month of climbing since all ascent was halted after the catastrophic earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015 and a deadly avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas in one day in 2014. The Sherpa people are an ethnic group from Nepal who have lived in the high altitudes of the Himalayas for generations. They have long served as guides whose local expertise has been invaluable for foreigners attempting Everest climbs.
"Everest is a mountain of extremes," said Jon Kedrowski, a geographer and climber. "At altitude, the body deteriorates on a certain level."
Kedrowski summited Mount Everest in 2012, another brutal year on the mountain, when overcrowding combined with a dangerous weather pattern to strand climbers in the "death zone" below the summit. Ten people died.
There have been many more deaths over the years. Between 1922 and 2010, 219 lost their lives trying to conquer Everest.
Crew member Phurba Sherpa (no relation to the journalist of the same name) fell to his death. The 25-year-old had been working to fix a route about 150 meters near the summit when he fell, according to Mingma Sherpa, the Nepal rescue team leader who was at the Everest Base Camp.
Eric Arnold, 36, of the Netherlands, died at night while heading back after a successful summit on Everest, according to Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, the owner of Seven Summit Treks. A heart attack was suspected, he said.
Arnold was a triathlete based in Rotterdam, according to his Twitter bio.
While it's unknown what might have caused Arnold's apparent heart attack, one of the first steps for anyone considering an Everest trek is to consult a doctor for a full evaluation to screen for any pre-existing conditions, experts say.
An Australian woman, Maria Strydom, who was also traveling with the Seven Summit Treks, started suffering altitude sickness. She had reached Camp IV, the final camp before the summit.
Strydom, 34, could not climb any higher and a rescue attempt to reach her failed, according to Tashi Sherpa. The finance professor at Monash Business School in Australia died Saturday before she could come back down to Camp III.
Strydom gave an interview with the school in March detailing her ambition to climb the highest summit on each of the seven continents. She had already climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey and Kilimanjaro in Africa. She had planned to climb Everest with her husband, inspired in part by questions the couple received about their vegan diet.
Her mother, Maritha Strydom, who had been posting updates about her daughter and son-in-law's expedition, said on Facebook: "I'm just too devastated to communicate, sorry."
She posted hours later that she was "praying" for her son-in-law, who the Australian media reported was battling "against congestive heart failure."
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.
An official at Nepal Tourism Department, Gyanendra Shrestha, said a helicopter search was not possible because the climbers were too high up the mountain.
"We are trying to communicate with other expedition teams around that level to locate the missing climbers," Shresthra said.
The fourth climber from the team, Sunita Hazra, was rescued and is undergoing treatment at base camp.
Meanwhile, an Indian woman suffered severe frostbite injuries near Camp IV after climbing Everest from the Nepal side.
Seema Goswami was undergoing treatment at a hospital after being airlifted from the Everest region, said Pemba Sherpa, the Seven Summit Treks manager.
Since the 2016 climbing season opened on Everest, about 300 people have scaled, according to data from Everest Base Camp as of Saturday.