The deaths of at least four mountaineers on the 8 848m-high Mount Everest have once again shone the spotlight on the deadly allure of the highest mountain on Earth.
All access points to the mountain were closed for two years after an avalanche in 2014 that killed 16 sherpas, and the massive Nepal earthquake last year in which 22 people died at Everest base camp – the deadliest accident on the mountain yet.
While almost 300 climbers have successfully summited on the southern, Nepalese side of the behemoth this year, a fourth fatality was confirmed on Monday – that of Indian mountaineer Subhash Paul, who died on Sunday as Sherpa guides were helping him descend after reaching the summit on Saturday, the BBC reported. Two other Indian climbers who had been with Paul have also been reported missing in the “death zone” near the summit.
The first death was that of the 25-year-old Phurba Sherpa, who fell while working to fix a route about 150m from the summit, according to reports from Everest base camp.
Dutch climber Eric Ary Arnold reached the summit on Friday and died while descending, presumably of a heart attack. Arnold was a triathlete based in Rotterdam, according to his Twitter biography.
On Saturday, 34-year-old Australian vegan Dr Maria Strydom, born in South Africa, died of altitude sickness after turning back 400m from the summit at Camp 4 because she was feeling ill. Strydom, a finance professor at Monash University in Melbourne, had been trying to summit Everest with her husband, Dr Robert Gropel, a vet, in an effort to prove that vegans could “do anything”.
Arnold Coster Expeditions, the climbing company used by Strydom and Gropel, confirmed in a statement that Strydom, who was also known as Marisa, had not made it to the summit.
It said in a blog post published by the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday: “Halfway between the South Summit and Balcony she was hardly able to move and became very confused. Her husband and several Sherpas struggled all night to bring her down, and miraculously she made it back to the South Col 2am that night, after spending 31 hours above the camp.
“We managed to stabilise her that night with medicine & oxygen, and Marisa was able to walk out of the tent herself the next morning. Helicopter rescue is only possible from Camp 3, so we continued our descent the next morning.
“Marisa was able to walk herself, but two hours out of camp she collapsed on the ‘Geneva Spur’. Her husband tried to retrieve her, but this was not possible any more. Rob was evacuated by helicopter from Camp 2 the next day and is in Kathmandu now.”
There have also been successful ascents on the Tibetan (northern) side of the mountain. They include that of Lhakpa Sherpa, a Nepalese woman living in the US where she works in a 7-Eleven, who reached the peak for the seventh time on Friday. She broke her own record for the most Everest climbs by a woman.