A Mounting Controversy: Are Too Many People Dying on Everest?

Mount Everest at Sunset: With ten confirmed deaths already this year, it's the second-deadliest climbing season on record for Mount Everest. What can be done to make climbers safer?
In the world of back-country hiking, the motto always is “Leave the area cleaner than you found it.” But that doesn’t seem to be the case with trekkers up Mount Everest these days.

And what they’re leaving behind is other frozen hikers.

This year’s climbing season on the world’s largest mountain is shaping up to be one of the deadliest. And the situation has people getting up in arms over the ethics involved with high-altitude, high-risk mountain climbing.

So far this year, there have been 10 confirmed fatalities on Everest, making it the second-deadliest climbing season on record. In 1996, 19 climbers died. All totaled, about 200 climbers have succumbed to Everest’s low oxygen and frigid temperatures in the 50 years climbers have bee summiting it.

But what really has people talking about the situation this year is that in the case of one of the fatalities, about 40 other climbers passed by the nearly frozen hiker, leaving him to die. Some ask, “How could they do that?”

First off, the elevation at the top of Everest is so high, it’s very risky if not impossible for helicopters to get there. Also, communication by phone or radio is extremely limited at those heights.

Due to the unforgiving nature of the top of the mountain, some climbers say it’s too risky to spend time and energy on a rescue mission that may very likely result in a death anyway. Time, oxygen and food are so limited at that altitude, losing them through the efforts of a rescue mission might lead others to die.

Some climbers have the attitude that they all assume huge risks to venture out on such a climb. If someone’s luck turns bad, they knew what they were getting into and shouldn’t expect extraordinary help.

Critics of those trains of thought point out that many climbers spent lots of money, $10,000 to $40,000, to pursue their dream. At that cost, they’re not willing to let their personal ambitions fade away to try to help someone else. They claim that many of these climbers don’t have the mountaineering skills necessary for success.

Also, they’re very concerned that Everest is becoming littered with corpses, used oxygen tanks and other climbing gear.

Do you think this is a crisis in need of some kind of fix? What alternatives might there be to help ease this situation? Share your ideas here by posting your comments.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Sun, 06/11/2006 - 8:30am
Cody Monk's picture
Cody Monk says:

While I can truly understand the situation the other climbers were in, and though they too were struggling up the mountain, that leaves no room to just "walk by" a helpless, dying man. God wants us to make sacrifices and give up worldly possessions and materialistic chains and serve him. In this case, the climbers should have at least checked on him to check his condition. At the same time, they may have lost their moral line of thought due to the high altitude's effect of starving one's system and brain of oxygen, which results in impaired mental functionality. But, they should of had enough sense to understand that the man was in dire need of assistance, and because of their negligence, lack of love for their neighbor, and complete lack of true mountaineering moral code, the man died. He died in a place many others have died in, where their corpses can often be easily seen and died under excruciating conditions. It's as bad as torture. Mankind becomes reckless and disregarding when it wants to achieve the ultimate goal or improve itself drastically. It seems that nowadays, humankind acts on whims with just about everything. The climbers didn't take time to consider morals, or ethics, or even what the man had been feeling. Instead, they first thought, "I've got to reach the top", and left it at that. Well, the mountain isn't going anywhere in their entire lifetime. It'll be there forever, but the man won't. One of the many sinful acts that plagues our corrupt society, and our Heavenly Father (for those of the Christian faith) weeps for our dark world.

posted on Mon, 10/16/2006 - 6:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

When you climb everest you leave understanding that you are resonsible for your own health and safety. this has nothing to do with "our heavenly father" but all to do with your own safety. at altitudes that high, and after climbing for several strenous hours, it is not possible to carry, or escort a 200+ pound man down. i would advise that you attempt to climb even a smaller mountain that is less technical three times in a row, and if you had the energy to carry essentially dead weight down the mountain. then figure that you are breathing through an oxygen mask to prevent you from suffocating in the dead zone (i recommend reading on this named elevation). finally the media failed to mention that other climbers had stopped and actually gave some of their oxygen to the fallen climber in an effort to get him on his feet. by this point these "samaritans" are risking their lives by possibly not having enough oxygen for their own return.

posted on Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it doesnt matter- if you conquer Everest and lose your humanity then you are a lesser person for it.

to giveup your "shot at glory" and your chance to be in an elite club then you are by far the better person. These idiots would never cut it in the forces where sacrifice of person for your comrades is the most important thing.

posted on Wed, 11/16/2011 - 10:31am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

they did check on david and give him oz'.i take it you have never been there .no where in the bible does it say be stupid?

posted on Fri, 12/22/2006 - 5:22pm
zak's picture
zak says:

I really think that majority of people in the west are selfish if not very selfish.
Let's put it this way...if it was in africa, i am sure the people there would never leave someone in that situation, even though majority of africans are poor But the have faith and big heart.
No matter what...you should never let someone die front of you..no matter what exuses you may come up with..still non sense.
The people who past the english man that day should've stoped and help that poor man, laying on the floor in such extrem conditions, and the reasons they keep coming up with for leaving him behind is the same rubbish...you don't know till you are up there...i say to them...that's rubbish! that's selfisheness.
How about if you were in that situation! would you like people to pass by and let you die? I'm sure you wouldn't...so how can you explain yourself by letting someone to die in vain when there was something that you could do.

posted on Fri, 02/15/2008 - 9:51am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Have you read Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster"?

It was first published in 1997, about a climb that occurred in 1996--the deadliest year in Everest history. It gives a gripping sense of how dangerous the climb is, and the awful realities facing any attempted rescues.

The back cover reads:

"Reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion, Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996. He hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours. As he turned to begin the perilous descent from 29,028 feet (roughly the cruising altitude of an Airbus jetliner), twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly to the top, unaware that the sky had begun to roil with clouds...
This is the terrifying story of what really happened that fateful day at the top of the world, during what would be the deadliest season in the history of Everest. In this harrowing yet breathtaking narrative, Krakauer takes the reader along with his ill-fated expedition, step by precarious step, from Katmandu to the mountain's pinnacle where, plagued by a combination of hubris, greed, poor judgement, and plain bad luck, they would fall prey to the mountain's unpredictable fury."

I really recommend it. Krakauer is a great writer, and I found myself enthralled. And furious. And saddened. And amazed that anyone makes it to the top and back!

posted on Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:27pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I'm also wondering what people are thinking about the search for the missing climbers on Mt. Hood? Mountaineering is a dangerous sport, and even great physical conditioning and meticulous planning are sometimes no match for Mother Nature.

(Here's an interesting site about the search.)

Do you think would-be rescuers should continue to put themselves at risk looking for the missing climbers?

posted on Wed, 12/20/2006 - 12:37pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Oh, CNN is reporting, as of 2:23 CST, that the search for the two climbers missing on Mount Hood, Oregon, is no longer a "search" but a "recovery effort."

posted on Wed, 12/20/2006 - 2:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I couldn't agree more with the third post. I've never climbed Everest or even climbed a single mountain! But I've studied Everest enough to know that above Camp 4, unless you go up and come back on your own two feet and under your own leg power, you won't come back. Your final resting place will a frozen grave at the top of the world. Seeing the situation without knowledge of how grueling the conditions are near the summit, people have no idea how little an rescue attempt would do if the victim can't walk. Everyone who was ever "saved" above Camp 4 still walked down on their own two feet. No one has ever brought a frozen body back down from the summit. Aside from the bone chilling sub artic winds and temperature and aside from the absence of oxygen, the path people traverse is only wide enough for one person to pass. In many places, a slip off the edge is a fall thousands of feet.
Now who on earth is going to drag someone down in such conditions? THE ONLY person who could criticize others for not doing so would be anyone who has done this. And to my knowledge, no one ever has. Even Edmund Hillary doesn't know what he's talking about when he criticizes climbers for leaving nearly dead, half frozen people on the mountain. Because when he climbed it, there was no one around to save. Consider how focused and driven he was during his ascent. Knowing he'd be the first person to reach the summit, would he have stopped to help his climbing partner Tenzing if he were in trouble? I don't know.
I can only picture in mind what it must be like climbing to the summit. A constant buzz in your brain from lack of oxygen (similar to not eating carbs for days), taking long slow breaths of freezing air never being able to catch your breath. Doing everything you can to put one foot in front of the other. Your body aches from exhaustion, your eye lids are heavy, your legs are heavy. You look up and all you see is a near vertical endless line of snow on the top of a peaked ridgeline. In many sections, the mountain is so steep you nearly have to climb on all fours.
Until someone has actual climbed this impossible mountain, they have no right to criticize the actions of others.

posted on Fri, 02/02/2007 - 5:24pm
phoenix's picture
phoenix says:

as stated before in this forum, it is a VERY risky business, high altitude climbing, and altho people do assume high risks in the climb, leaving people to die, not even trying to help is WRONG!!! let me say that again in case some climbers didnt hear me, WRONG!! what kind of human are you to leave a person to die. from my research into this story i have learnt that only 4 people in all 50 years the mountain has been open for business have even tried to help a dying man, commendable VERY! But everest like K2 is becoming a graveyard for the inexperienced climber and something or someone should be there to police the situation, not only for the climbers sake but for the refuse situtation, as has been said before most other extreme adventuring has an unwritten rule that everything u take in should go back with you, only this is not the case with these high altitude sports, everest is quickly becoming a refuse tip. if people do not have the experience to climb these mountains they should not be allowed to climb, likewise if refuse cannot be taken out then they should not climb. i know a nanny state, but if we have as a human race come to the point where it is too dificult for us to be bothered to save a helpless man or remove our rubbish then we should be treated like children as that is the mentality of some of these so called adventurers. i have the highest respect for people who explore, whether it be space, climbing, underwater, whatever extreme enviroment it is ,but concern should be shown becuase of the attitude of this particular passtime.


posted on Sat, 03/31/2007 - 7:52pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i just want to find the results at this stage i have not found them but if you don't have them on this site could you please paste them on the site

posted on Thu, 05/31/2007 - 9:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I totally agree that in the 'death zone' (above 8,000m) there's no way you can blame anyone for not trying to help another person to safety, although there are some incredible men who have done just that. But there is a difference between not attempting the impossible in trying to save a dying man, and not possessing the simple humanity to sit with him and hold him as he died. The British climber Joe Simpson describes the horrendous loneliness that he felt when he fell on Siula Grande in Peru, and how the only reason he managed to drag himself for several days with a shattered leg, no food or water or medical equipment back to their base camp when his partner assumed he was dead, was so that he didn't have to die alone. In the 1992 climbing season, both a Dutch and an Indian team, camped out on the South Col, left a man to die, alone in the snow, only a few metres from their warm tents. He was obviously alive - moving and calling out to them, so why didn't they at least pull him into their tents? Hold him and keep him warm as he died?

And so little is known about the effects of altitude on the human body, who are we to say whether a man, given warmth and water, could recover enough to walk down himself the next day? It happened to Beck Weathers in the 1996 expedition - more than 24 hours after he had been left for dead in a blizzard, something triggered inside him, made him get to his feet, walk to safety, and ultimately survive. In all my years of climbing, I've been close to death more times that i want to remember, and I know that on the mountains, it's your own life that matters, but I hope I would never leave anyone to die alone, and that some sense of simple humanity would mean that I never die alone.Dying on the mountains I could cope with - I've got used to the idea after all this time, but the idea of dying alone still fills me with horror.

posted on Mon, 12/31/2007 - 6:04am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You all need to watch "Everest; Beyond the Limit, Season 1". It documents the very man who died by the people who tried to save him. Very enlightening. Watch for yourselves, it's available to rent on Netflix.

posted on Sun, 11/09/2008 - 4:25pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

well if you dont want to die then dont climb up there.. why would you risk your life like that anyway?
there are othere things you can do why dont you just go rock climbing???????

posted on Thu, 03/19/2009 - 7:52am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I don't think I would even want to climb Everest, now, because it sounds awful. It sounds worse than sloppy-seconds.
Why pay $40,000 to climb to the top of this trash-heap? Dead bodies, discarded oxygen containers, random bits of trash and what-not. If you have to stand-in-line, waiting for 50 other climbers ahead of you to reach the summit, you risk frost bite and death. It sounds like the worst, boring, expensive, amusement park ride, ever, on the face of the earth.
I would not doubt, that a good portion of climbers who attempt Everest, do it for the acclaim, or because they have something to prove. I don't think it's about spirituality or feeling at-one with the Universe. I think if you want to climb Everest, you have a suicidal bent. Maybe there's something very attractive about dying on Everest for some people.

posted on Thu, 12/31/2009 - 2:51pm
 Top climbing mountains's picture

And so little is known about the effects of altitude on the human body, who are we to say whether a man, given warmth and water, could recover enough to walk down himself the next day? It happened to Beck Weathers in the 1996 expedition - more than 24 hours after he had been left for dead in a blizzard, something triggered inside him, made him get to his feet, walk to safety, and ultimately survive. In all my years of climbing, I've been close to death more times that i want to remember, and I know that on the mountains, it's your own life that matters, but I hope I would never leave anyone to die alone, and that some sense of simple humanity would mean that I never die alone.Dying on the mountains I could cope with - I've got used to the idea after all this time, but the idea of dying alone still fills me with horror.

posted on Sat, 04/10/2010 - 2:53am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Everest is a challenge that not everyone can handle. The high altitude, freezing cold, and low oxygen allow for very little chance for error. The dying man that day was beyond saving from the second he hit the snow. The only way down is climbing down yourself.
People just become too dependent on the sherpas and expadition guides to get them out of hot spots. Carrying that man down just would have risked every single expadition members life. Which is better, getting an entire expadition team down safely? Or dragging a dead body while putting everybody at risk?
You must respect the power of the mountain if you wish to survive

posted on Thu, 01/13/2011 - 11:46am
Someone Who can Spell, Doesn't climb mountains, but reads's picture
Someone Who can Spell, Doesn't climb mountains, but reads says:

I like that a) most people on this forum are willing to suggest that they would give up their life ambitions, around $40,000 and risk their very lives, for a stranger who (in this specific case) ignored all of the advice given to climbers taking on high altitude climbs and solo ascended to the top. Failed to turn around at an appropriate point and as a consequence, died. Now it would be unfair for me to cast judgement on these criteria alone, so lets investigate further.... David Sharpe signed with Himalayan trekking, a noturiously poor agency. He made his summit bid with every intention of sleeping high on the mountain in a specialised Bevawhack/sleeping bag device, and had no interest in leaving the mountain without summiting. He took his own life into his own hands, and he paid the ultimate price for achieving his dream.

b) i'm surprised that a lot of you claming to be experienced make glaring spelling errors like "Expadition" to highlight one of my favourites....

and c) talk about a higher presence as if this "god" would smile or frown upon your actions attempting to achieve a summit. First off, you've already broken a bunch of commandments and actions as laid down in the various [and equally ridiculous] holy books in lusting after this goal in the first place.

We live in a world where people don't even call the cops when they hear a scream in the street, then are reluctant to give police information when someone winds up dead. This exact event happens everyday at sea level, but we're not splattering it over the front page....

On top of this, Sir Ed is a moron to suggest that Inglis should have helped the man. Inglis had no legs, and had specifically tailored his expedition to make sure that neither he (or his climbing party) would be placed in peril and accepted that help simply would not come, hell he even says this when he recounts his time trapped on Mount Cook, which is a hill by comparrison.

So I think we should all face facts that we are in fact all arm chair climbers, especially the man who claims to have been close to death too many times to remember (a paraphrase but the gist is there) and that are ability to cast judgement on the actions of people who attempt something that we all dream of (judging by the interest in this subject which received little to no air time outside of New Zealand and is merely a climbing based issue) is redundant.... and I'm merely here to point this out.

Krauker: Into Thin Air, Nick Heil: Dark Summit, Anatoli Boukreev: The Climb, Ed Viesturs: No easy way down, PBS: Storm over Everest, Everest Beyond the limit Seasons 1-3, Everest ER, Farther than the Eye Can See, Everest iMax, Nova Everest Special.

I accept i'm obsessed with the mountain, and maybe one day I'll visit it, but at least I am informed....

posted on Sat, 01/29/2011 - 2:25pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

If you cant be a human being when scaling Mt Everest, then theres no point trying. The day you put scaling any hill above a human life is the day you fail in that endeavour. As far as I am concerned, Inglis never reached the summit at all, only some animal part of him did, and thats no acheivement, thats pure evil.

Imagine if the roles were reversed. If Mark Inglis had been left behind, he'd never climb Everest or do anything again. If he had been rescued he would be able to anything with the restof his life, and his rescuers could climb it another day.

posted on Tue, 08/16/2011 - 2:32pm

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