Days after deaths, another crowd attempts Everest

Friday , May 25, 2012 - 4:54 PM

Binaj Gurubacharya

KATMANDU, Nepal -- A wave of climbers headed for the summit of Mount Everest on Friday and several people already had made it to the summit in what is expected to be another busy weekend on the top of the world.

Last weekend, four climbers died on their way down from the summit amid worsening weather and a traffic jam of more than 200 people scrambling to conquer the world's highest peak. A similar crowd is expected this weekend, but there have been no reports of climbers in trouble and the weather is good.

Several climbers reached the 29,035-foot summit Friday morning, said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, an official with Nepal's Tourism Ministry.

"This is the last chance for climbers to attempt to reach the summit. If they can't, then there is not going to be another opportunity this season," Sapkota said, adding that more than 150 people were planning to climb to the summit this weekend.

Several climbers began their trek from the last camp at the South Col, located at 8,000 meters (26,240 feet), on Thursday night and climbed all night, reaching the summit in the morning.

The deaths last weekend raised concerns about overcrowding above the highest camp on the mountain. The area above the South Col is nicknamed the "death zone" because of the steep, icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

Officials said that last weekend, climbers were heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m., even though 11 a.m. is the latest start time recommended. That meant climbers were staying too long on the mountain's upper reaches and exhausting their oxygen supplies because they didn't anticipate having to wait.

More than 3,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to do so in 1953. Some 225 climbers have died attempting it.

The deadliest day was May 10, 1996, when eight people were killed. The main reason was said to be that climbers who started their ascent late in the day were caught in a snowstorm in the afternoon and lost their way.

The climbing season normally runs from late March to the first week in June, but this year the first clear conditions occurred only last weekend.

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