by Ben Farmer, The Telegraph, May 24, 2019
Three more climbers have died on the overcrowded slopes of Mount Everest after a run of clear weather saw mountaineers stuck for hours in a high altitude human traffic jam.
Thursday's deaths followed two other deaths the day before which were blamed on the tailbacks to reach the 8,848m (29,030ft) peak.
Local media identified the three new victims as two Indians and an Austrian. Kalpana Das, a 49-year-old from Odisha; Nihal Ashpak Bagwan, a 27-year-old from Pune, and Ernst Landgraf died descending the world's tallest mountain.
"Bagwan died of dehydration, exhaustion and tiredness after being caught in the jam of climbers," said Keshab Paudel of the Peak Promotion hiking agency that handled the climber's logistics.
The deaths bring the toll of dead or missing this week to six. Two died on Wednesday as between 200 and 300 climbers queued to reach the summit.
Mountaineering has become a lucrative business for Nepal since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953.
This year is likely to be a bumper year for people reaching the summit. The Himalayan nation has issued a record 381 permits costing $11,000 each for this year's spring climbing season, sparking fears of bottlenecks en route to the summit if poor weather cuts down the number of climbing days. With each climber normally accompanied by at least one Sherpa guide, the mountain is likely to see more than 750 climbers treading the path to the top. At least 140 others have been granted permits to climb from the northern side in Tibet, meaning the total number to reach the summit could pass last year's record of 807.
Alan Arnette, who writes about Everest, said the short spring climbing season only normally allowed 7 to 12 good weather days to reach the summit. He said so far in 2019, there had only been two good weather breaks, consisting of a total of five days. With so few opportunities and so many permits, he said it was “simply impossible to squeeze that many people through the notorious bottlenecks on both sides”.
Hiking officials say between five and ten climbers die on Mount Everest in an average climbing year.
A total of 15 climbers have died or are missing on different Himalayan peaks in Nepal, seven of them Indians, since the start of the climbing season in March.