Mt Everest claims 4th victim this year

View of the North Face of Mt. Everest taken near the Base Camp.
PHOTO: Desmond Foo

27-year-old Indian climber Ravi Kumar goes missing

Mt Everest has claimed its fourth victim in 22 days after two mountaineers-an American and a Slovakian-died near the summit of the world's tallest peak on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a 27-year-old Indian climber Ravi Kumar has been missing from so called 'balcony' (8,400 metre), near the summit, since Saturday after his successful ascent of Mt Everest.

The chances of his survival are slim, as over 24 hours have elapsed since he went missing in the extreme climate, mountaineering officials said.

With this death toll, 45 people have lost their lives on Mt Everest in the last four years.

The 50-year-old American physician, Roland Yearwood, died at 'balcony' (8,400 metres) on Sunday, said Gyanendra Shrestha, an official of the Tourism Ministry.

He was a part of the 15-member team of SummitClimb Everest Expedition 2017 led by Daniel Lee Mazur.

The 49-year-old Slovakian solo climber Vladimir Strba died at Camp IV on Sunday afternoon.

Strba, holder of passport No.BA8369477, had sustained serious injuries due to frostbite.

"The reason for Yearwood's death is yet to be confirmed," he said.

However, initial report suggests he may have suffered altitude sickness-also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS)-a pathological effect of high altitude on humans caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude.

Man sleeps in low-oxygen tent in Singapore to prep for Everest climb

  • As other Everest hopefuls were trudging up to base camp in April, Singapore-based Brooks Entwistle was at home, planning his daughter's 13th birthday party and preparing for his company's annual general meeting.
  • But at night he would climb into a hypoxic, or low oxygen, tent meant to mimic the thin air at high altitude.
  • Nitrogen is pumped into the sealed tent to recreate a high-altitude environment by reducing oxygen levels so that the body adapts to thinner air.
  • Entwistle, a partner with Singapore's Everstone Group, is hoping to summit the world's highest peak in just 35 days - half the time of a conventional climb.
  • For decades, the dream of reaching the summit of Mount Everest has required at least two months on the mountain doing a series of acclimatisation rotations to get used to the harsh low-oxygen environment at the top of the world.
  • Now pre-acclimatisation, which has been at the fringes of the climbing world for several years, is gaining traction, dividing the community between those who see it as yet another tool of modern mountaineering and purists who dismiss it as a gimmick.
  • An increasing number of expedition organisers are offering "rapid ascent" packages that allow clients to pre-acclimatise in a tent at home before zipping up the world's tallest peaks in just a few weeks.
  • Entwistle and climbers with at least two other operators are attempting to summit Everest this year after using pre-acclimatisation tents, each paying between US$75,000 and US$85,000, more than double the cheapest rates to scale Everest the conventional way.
  • Proponents of pre-acclimatisation say spending less time on the mountain lowers the risk of frostbite, accidents and extreme weight loss commonly associated with high-altitude mountaineering.
  • Hypoxic tents have long been used by athletes to build up lung capacity as part of their training.

Yearwood, holding passport No. 552705032, had returned to Nepal after an earthquake-triggered avalanche on April 25, 2015 prevented him from climbing the mountain.

His body which has been left stranded at 8,400 metres is difficult to bring down.

"The issue is complicated. It's too much risk to bring his body down. It's extremely difficult and dangerous," said Murari Krishna Sharma, managing director of Everest Parivar Expedition, the agency that handled Yearwood's expedition.

"However, we will consult with his family members and high-altitude guides to assess whether we can take a risk."

Given the risks involved in spending so much time at high altitudes, many climbing teams decide not to bring down the dead bodies.

Nearly 300 people have died on Mt Everest since the first ascent to the peak was made in 1953.

It is estimated that more than 200 dead bodies are still lying on the mountain.

Meanwhile, whereabouts of Indian climber Kumar is unknown. "Search and rescue efforts are underway," said Chowang Sherpa, managing director of Arun Treks and Expedition, the handling agency of Kumar's expedition.

"It was a wrong timing. The expedition began late and the Indian climber with his Sherpa guide reached the summit at 1:28pm on Saturday."

He said the Indian climber had forced the guide to push for summit even though it was not the appropriate time for climbing.

"We had clearly directed our guides to return if they were unable to reach the summit before 11am," said Chowang.

Lack of oxygen coupled with extreme temperatures and weather later in the afternoon creates a greater risk of death on the mountain.

According to Chowang, the Indian climber had collapsed at 8pm due to low level of energy and oxygen when they were descending from the summit.

The Sherpa guide then left the Indian climber at the balcony with supplementary oxygen after he failed to walk.

The guide then descended to Camp IV to send a rescue team as he suffered multiple injuries due to frostbite and snow blindness.

But when three high-altitude guides reached the place, they didn't find the Indian there, said Chowang.

"The climbers, who descended, did not see him as well," he informed, adding that he might have slipped from the location where he was taking a rest.

"We will be sending four rescue guides on Monday as well, but his chances of survival are very thin on such extreme climate."

This year's climbing season has already been marred by three deaths. The 85-year-old Nepali, Min Bahadur Sherchan, and experienced Swiss climber Ueli Steck died during an acclimatisation climb.

Last year, Everest had claimed six lives.

On April 18, 2014, there was an avalanche near Everest Base Camp which killed 16 Nepali guides.

Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies and the remaining three were never recovered, as search and rescue operations were called off due to adverse weather condition.

Then in 2015, quake-triggered avalanches killed 19 climbers.

70 reach Everest peak

At least 70 climbers, including high-altitude climbing guides, successfully reached the world's tallest peak on Sunday morning, taking advantage of a good weather window.

An equal number of Everest aspirants are waiting to climb the summit on Monday, government officials said. Since May 15, more than 150 individuals have reached the summit.

According to the Tourism Department, 373 fee-paying climbers have received permits to make an attempt on the world's tallest peak this spring.

This is the highest number of climbing permits issued for Everest expedition during a single season.

With each climber hiring at least one local climbing guide, the total number of climbers is likely to touch 800 this season.

On May 15, the Gurkha Everest Expedition reached the top of Mt Everest, becoming the first to scale the world's tallest peak this year.

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