KATHMANDU, Nepal — A huge queue of climbers has formed near the summit of Mount Everest as expedition organizers and local media reported as many as six deaths on the world’s highest mountain.
More than 200 climbers were taking advantage of clear weather late this week to attempt to summit from both Nepal and China, but teams had to line up for hours to reach the top — risking frostbite and altitude sickness.
The latest victim was named as Kevin Hynes, 56, from Ireland, who died in his tent at 7,000 meters on Friday, the Guardian reported, having turned back before reaching the summit.
The Guardian named three other fatalities as Kalpana Das, 49, and Nihal Ashpak Bagwan, 27, both Indian, and Ernst Landgraf, an Austrian.
Expedition organizers also named American Donald Lynn Cash, 55, who collapsed at the summit on Wednesday as he was taking photographs, and Indian Anjali Kulkarni, also 55, who died while descending after reaching the top.
Cash became ill at the summit and was treated there by his two Sherpa guides, one of the officials said. “He got high altitude sickness on top of Everest,” said Pasang Tenje Sherpa, head of Pioneer Adventure, which provided the guides.
“When he was on the top he just fell. The two Sherpas who were with him gave CPR and massages,” he said. “After that he woke up, then near Hillary Step he fell down again in the same manner, which means he got high altitude sickness.”
Kulkarni’s expedition organizer, Arun Treks, said heavy traffic at the summit had delayed her descent and caused her death.
“She had to wait for a long time to reach the summit and descend,” said Thupden Sherpa. “She couldn’t move down on her own and died as Sherpa guides brought her down.”
Pasang Tenje Sherpa, of Pioneer Adventure, told AFP that Cash collapsed on the summit and died close to Hillary Step as guides were bringing him back.
Mountaineering in Nepal has become a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953.
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.
“This season’s summit crowds – the worst since 2012 – had been exacerbated by unsettled weather which meant there had been only five possible summit days in May so far, compared with between seven and 12 in recent years,” the Guardian said. “This had caused hundreds of climbers to converge on several notorious sections where they can only pass one at a time.”
Everest blogger Alan Arnette called the current conditions “insane.”
Most Everest hopefuls are escorted by a Nepali guide, meaning more than 750 climbers will tread the same path to the top in the coming weeks.
At least 140 others have been granted permits to scale Everest from the northern flank in Tibet, according to expedition operators. This could take the total past last year’s record of 807 people reaching the summit.
Many Himalayan mountains — including Everest — are at peak climbing season, with the window of good weather between late April and the end of May.
At least six other foreign climbers have died on other 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks this season, while two are missing.