We’re all trying to conquer some kind of mountain. For some, though, this means actually racing to the top of the highest mountain in the world: the Mount Everest. However, it turns out that there are so many people trying to get to the top that it’s caused a “traffic jam” at the highest altitudes of the Himalayan range.
According to reports, two mountaineers died of altitude sickness and suffocation, allegedly caused by too many climbers blocking the path. Indian climber Anjali Kulkarni was on her way down, after having successfully reached the Mount Everest summit, when she collapsed. “Due to the huge traffic yesterday and the delay in being able to return back, she couldn’t maintain her energy,” Phupden Sherpa, the tour group’s manager told The New York Times.
Around the same time, on Wednesday, American mountaineer Donald Lynn Cash, 55, also died after fainting due to high altitude sickness while descending from the summit, according to the Nepalese expedition company, Pioneer Adventure Pvt Ltd.
This isn’t the first time that overcrowding has caused panic on Mount Everest. Nirmal Pujra, a climber, shared a preview of exactly how damn dangerous the human traffic jam can be on his Instagram, showing the queue to the top of the mountain in an area known as the "death zone."
Science has taught us that since the Mount Everest summit stands at an elevation of 8,848 meters (29,029 feet), each breath can only have one-third of the oxygen found at sea level. This means that the human body can’t stand the altitude for long and will rapidly deteriorate at this point. In fact, most people can only spend a few minutes at the top without extra oxygen supplies, before it gets unbearable.
However, eager to get in on the mountain-conquering craze, too many people have been trying to make their way up in a small window of good weather, said Nivesh Karki, the manager of Pioneer Adventures to The New York Times. This, he adds, is what caused the congestion.
“This is a huge problem because the route is already dangerous, and there is always risk,” he said. “And a lot of traffic makes the journey quite difficult.”
According to reports released by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism, 563 people—both foreigners and local guides—have managed to reach the summit of Everest from Nepal from last season to this year. Meanwhile, mountain blogger Alan Arnette has estimated that an additional 239 people reached the summit from Tibet, bringing the 2018 total to 802. He also suggests that this year is expected to be even busier, even though the 2018 climbing season left five dead.
Normally, climbers are required to register for a permit which costs $11,000 before they can scale the summit. There are 41 teams with a total of 378 climbers permitted to scale Everest during the spring climbing season. An equal number of Nepalese guides are helping them to get to the summit. Along with a traffic jam though, this has also led to a major trash problem on a mountain notoriously called "the world's highest garbage dump."
Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.