Aussie reveals why climbers are dying
The youngest Australian to reach the summit of Mt Everest says Nepal needs to act as human traffic jams on the world's highest mountain are blamed for its worst death toll in four years.
Queensland adventurer Alyssa Azar, who was 19 when she first climbed Everest in 2016, said she was "shocked" by images showing massive queues of climbers stepping over dead bodies as Everest's 2019 death toll rose to 11.
"I climbed that exact ridge line three years ago and it looks nothing like that," she told Today Show this morning.
"Immediately I wonder what were the decisions and planning that went into this."
The Nepalese government has issued a record number of permits to climb Everest this year, which is believed to have contributed to chaotic pile-ups on mountain's notorious "death zone" - the final push before the summit - leaving exhausted climbers exposed for even longer to the high altitude and extreme conditions.
Nepal's cash-trapped tourism officials said there were no plans to restrict permits but Ms Azar said they needed to follow the lead of Tibet, which has capped numbers on the mountain's northern side.
"Only so many people every year can climb on the north side but that is unregulated in Nepal, on the south side, where we see the images," she said.
She echoed concerns from experts that influxes of wannabe climbers were slowing down queues to the summit.
"There are inexperienced climbers who don't know the basics of putting their gear on," Ms Azar said.
"That zone is dangerous already without those sort of accidents happening. When you get to Camp 4 and you are officially in that death zone, you really have sort of a 24-hour time limit.
"So if you haven't reached the summit within 12 hours, you have to turn around because you are going to run out of oxygen.
"Often people die up there because of exhaustion and the lack of oxygen. So it is dangerous already.
"I don't think it can rest on the climber's shoulders to necessarily regulate it. I think it has to be done by Nepal. If they restrict access to only a certain number of permits and people have to have a certain amount of altitude experience, then it will be a lot safer."
FOUR REASONS IT GOT SO BAD
Mt Everest is experiencing its worst death toll since 2015, with 11 climbers having died so far this year.
Photographs taken this month by adventure filmmaker Elia Saikaly show chaotic scenes in the mountain's "death zone", near the summit, as massive influxes of climbers create long traffic jams.
"I cannot believe what I saw up there," Saikaly wrote of the scene.
"Death. Carnage. Chaos. Line-ups. Dead bodies on the route and in tents at camp 4. People who I tried to turn back who ended up dying. People being dragged down. Walking over bodies."
On Monday, Canberra man Gillian Lee was rescued from Mt Everest after he was found unconscious at 7500m. That day, American lawyer Christopher John Kulish became the 11th person to die on Mt Everest this year.
Experts have identified four key reasons for this year's horror conditions on the world's highest mountain.
MORE PERMITS THAN EVER
Tourism is the biggest money-maker in Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries, and Mt Everest is its biggest drawcard. This year tourism officials issued more permits to climbers than ever before, and the government has no plan to restrict numbers. Neither does it control the pace or timing of climbing expeditions.
This has contributed to massive crowds and long queues on the world's highest mountain - especially in its notorious "death zone", right before the summit.
"There were more people on Everest than there should be," Kul Bahadur Gurung, general secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told Associated Press.
"We lack the rules and regulations that say how many people can actually go up and when."
THE NARROW SUMMIT WINDOW
Poor weather this season has cut the climbing window, leaving fewer days of suitable conditions for climbers to reach the summit.
It's created a mad scramble to the top that may have contributed to this year's usually high death toll.
The narrow window of opportunity - coupled with a record high number of permits - has forced climbers to either wait in high altitude or head back down the mountain, stepping over dead bodies along their way.
"You have 800 people trying to squeeze through a very small window," Mt Everest veteran Alan Arnette told CNN.
The iconic status of Mt Everest, the world's tallest peak, and the ease of obtaining permits has seen a growing influx of amateur climbers alongside experienced mountaineers.
While Nepal requires climbers submit a doctor's note verifying they are physically fit, there is no such test of their stamina at extreme heights.
Climbers have a limited time to reach the summit before the high altitude puts them at risk of pulmonary oedema, when lungs fill with liquid.
Veteran climbers have blamed the faltering of the inexperienced climbers for slowing up queues to the top.
"It has become a death race there because there was (a) massive traffic jam, and people are pushing themselves who are not even capable of doing it," Indian mountaineer Rizza Alee told Reuters, after he returned from Camp 4 due to lack of oxygen.
"They do it, they try to summit and they, instead of summating, they kill themselves."
Once people do reach the summit of Mt Everest, they're stopping for a selfie instead of stepping aside to let the next person reach the top.
This is also being blamed for the massive queues on the way up the mighty mountain.
Mountain guide Adrian Ballinger said climbers waiting in line to reach the summit were putting themselves at risk because, at above 8000 metres, "humans just really aren't meant to exist there".
"Even when using bottled oxygen, supplemental oxygen, there's only a very few number of hours that we can actually survive up there before our bodies start to shut down," he told CNN.
"So that means if you get caught in a traffic jam above 26,000 feet … the consequences can be really severe."