Who climbed Mount Everest four times

The traffic jam doesn't kill the people on Mount Everest - says a man who climbed the summit 24 times

AP Photo / Niranjan Shrestha

Kami Rita Sherpa knows Mount Everest better than anyone: He has climbed the highest mountain in the world a full 24 times - more than any other person before him.

On May 15th and 21st of this year he even managed to climb the mountain peak twice within a week. By the way, in his home country Nepal the highest mountain in the world is called "Sagarmatha".

"I'm doing very well now," he told Business Insider eight days later. The mountaineer is currently recovering with his daughter and son in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

Reuters / Navesh Chitrakar

In the same month that Sherpa's two record climbs took place, eleven climbers died on Mount Everest - the number of Everest deaths is already twice as high as last year.

Experts attribute the increasing number of fatal accidents to growing tourism and the increasing number of inexperienced and slow climbers. This also extends the period of time in which mountaineers stay in the "death zone" - historically the deadliest region on Everest. The demands for stricter requirements for the level of experience of mountaineers on Mount Everest are meanwhile getting louder.

An Indian mountaineer who lost two of her friends on Mount Everest this year told the Associated Press that Nepal had to protect “inexperienced” tourists from the dangerous spots on the mountain.

Sherpa sees the problem elsewhere.

"There are many reports that most deaths occurred in narrow, crowded places," Sherpa said. "But that's not true!"

According to him, the bottlenecks are not responsible for the eleven deaths this year. Instead, it is mostly the climbers themselves who push their bodies to their limits.

“Traffic jams” on Mount Everest are nothing new

381 tourists paid $ 11,000 this year to get permission to climb Mount Everest from the Nepalese side of the mountain - a record number.

Overcrowded climbing routes are, however, a more routine part of the ascent: Due to the weather, there are only a few time windows that guarantee optimal conditions for a smooth ascent - most of them in April or May. During these few days everyone wants to climb the summit.

"It's not just this year," said Sherpa, "there have always been days like this."

Nimsdai Project Possible / AP

The Nepalese mountaineer Karma Tenzing, who climbed the summit of Everest on the same day as Sherpa this year, sees the situation similarly.

"Everest has been wrongly condemned since May 22, 2019," he said on Twitter. “Below you can see real photos of my ascent to the summit on May 15th - without the crowds. I spent a full hour up there. With a time window of 3 to 4 days and almost 300 Everest summiteers per year, it is logical that it sometimes gets stuck on the climbing paths. "

The film producer Jennifer Peedom, who has already climbed the Everest summit four times, described a similar situation in an interview with Business Insider last year.

“There are people everywhere,” she said. "You are in this incredibly remote place and yet you are in the queue almost continuously."

Sherpa, on the other hand, sticks to his opinion that the deaths had nothing to do with the queues, but rather with the overconfidence of some mountain climbers. Studies have suggested that Everest climbers can develop a kind of "summit fever" - the climber then forces himself to the top of the mountain, even if his physical performance limit has long been exceeded.

“At this height, every step demands everything,” Everest climber and movement psychologist Shaunna Burke recently told Business Insider. “If you don't have enough gasoline in the tank, your car will stop, and it is the same with mountain climbing. That's why some climbers sit down on Everest and never get up again. "

Sherpa agrees.

“When you return from climbing Everest, your body is kind of a wreck. Lots of people die from it, ”he said.

Reuters / Navesh Chitraker

In fact, the New York Times reported that 10 of the 11 climbers who died on Everest this month were on their way back from the mountaintop at the time of their death. In the process, they either fell, collapsed or died of exhaustion - and some simply did not get up after they had sat down.

The only climber to die before reaching the summit that year was Kevin Hynes. His family informed the Irish broadcaster "RTE" that Hynes had returned early because he felt ill. Hynes had already climbed Mount Everest last year.

In 2015 there were 19 deaths on Mount Everest

This year's Everest tragedies are a reminder that death is omnipresent regardless of experience or preparation on the mountain. More than 300 people have lost their lives there, which corresponds to a death rate of around four percent. The Englishman Geoerge Mallory, leader of the first expedition to attempt to reach the summit of Everest, died on the mountain in 1923. Three decades passed before Sherpa Tensing Norgay and Sir Edmond Hillary were the first demonstrably to climb the summit in 1953.

Although the local Sherpas are considered to be pioneers in mountaineering, the ascent is extremely dangerous for them too. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to ever attempt the ascent to the summit, died in 1993 while attempting the way down. In 2014, 16 Sherpas died in an avalanche accident. The event sparked a wave of protests that spring. The next year, at least 19 climbers died when another avalanche hit base camp. Ten of these victims were Sherpas.

Sherpa says that with every ascent, of course, fear plays along “a little”; even with a veteran like him. He always gets particularly nervous in the region of the Khumbu Icefall - one of the most dangerous places on the way to the summit of Everest.

Prakash Mathema / AFP / Getty Images

Sherpa guides typically make $ 5,000 per season; Depending on experience, even a multiple of it. Sherpa says he's “paid a little better” than other guides because of his multiple records. In addition, there would be a bonus when customers reach the top of the mountain.

In general, according to Sherpa, you will get a more experienced Everest guide if you pay more. However, some tour operators have already been charged with grotesque cost-cutting strategies.

"There are agencies that hire inexperienced people as guides and thus expose their customers to unnecessary danger," explains Tshering Pande Bhote, Vice President of the Nepal National Mountain Guides Association to the BBC.

"I'll come again next year"

Sherpa says his best days on Everest are numbered - but he's not finished yet.

"I'll be back next year," he said, adding that the next hike will be something of an anniversary: ​​the 25th ascent to the summit in his 50th year of life.

"After the 25th time, I'll quit," he said. After that, he plans to do more management work and climb a few smaller peaks.

Remarkably, he does not have to complete any special training for the ascent in the next year: Sherpa generally undertakes two to four large mountain tours per year and has already climbed other mountains such as K2, the second highest mountain in the world.