NEW DELHI — Ed Dohring, a doctor from Arizona, had dreamed his whole life of reaching the top of Mount Everest. But when he summited a few days ago, he was shocked by what he saw.
Climbers were pushing and shoving to take selfies. The flat part of the summit, which he estimated at about the size of two Ping-Pong tables, was packed with 15 or 20 people. To get up there, he had to wait hours in a line, chest to chest, one puffy jacket after the next, on an icy, rocky ridge with a several-thousand foot drop.
He even had to step around the body of a woman who had just died.
“It was scary,” he said by telephone from Kathmandu, Nepal, where he was resting in a hotel room. “It was like a zoo.”
This has been one of the deadliest climbing seasons on Everest, with at least 10 deaths. And at least some seem to have been avoidable.
The problem hasn’t been avalanches, blizzards or high winds. Veteran climbers and industry leaders blame having too many people on the mountain, in general, and too many inexperienced climbers, in particular.
Fly-by-night adventure companies are taking up untrained climbers who pose a risk to everyone on the mountain. And the Nepalese government, hungry for every climbing dollar it can get, has issued more permits than Everest can safely handle, some experienced mountaineers say.
Add to that Everest’s inimitable appeal to a growing body of thrill-seekers the world over. And the fact that Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest nations and the site of most Everest climbs, has a long record of shoddy regulations, mismanagement and corruption.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Chatur Tamang was on his way to the roof of the world when he hit a traffic jam.
Ahead of him, on the final ascent to Mount Everest, he saw more than 100 people bunched together on the narrow ridge that leads to the summit — a place so high that it is known as the “death zone,” where the human body has trouble functioning.
Some of those descending from the summit pleaded desperately with those ascending to clear a way for them to pass since they had run out of oxygen. “That sent chills down my spine,” said Tamang, 45, a mountaineering guide who lives in Russia. He fears that if no action is taken, the crowds next year could be worse, with potentially fatal consequences.
At least 10 people died trying to reach the summit of the world’s tallest mountain this year, the deadliest climbing season for the peak in four years. One factor contributing to this year’s toll appears to have been crowding as scores of people attempted to ascend in a short window of good weather, producing delays that extended the time climbers spent at deadly altitudes.
Now officials in Nepal are reviewing whether to change the way access to Everest works. Some experts say that the government should extend the climbing season in May or implement certain requirements for climbers, a number of whom lack experience or sign on with companies offering bargain-priced expeditions.
Nirmal Purja, an accomplished climber who is attempting to summit 14 peaks worldwide within seven months, was on his way down from the summit at Everest when he decided to stop and photograph the scene behind him. It was unusually cold, he said, and extraordinarily crowded.