Mount Everest's Deadly Season


Just before reaching the summit of Mount Everest, Australian engineer Jason Kennison told his mum in a FaceTime call that he would see her when he got back.

He was fulfilling a lifelong dream to stand on top of the world and raise funds for his favoured charity, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.

But that static-filled video call was the last time Gill Kennison would see her son alive. As the 40-year-old descended from the summit, he caught high-altitude sickness and died.

Mr Kennison is among 12 confirmed fatalities from the spring climbing season, one of the deadliest in recent years. It has just concluded but five mountaineers remain missing. The deaths already exceed the 11 lives lost in 2019, when overcrowding on the picturesque yet treacherous terrain was highlighted by a viral photo of one long queue to the summit.

This year's victims succumbed to the perennial risks of climbing Everest - three Sherpas died in a serac or ice fall, and the others fell ill like Mr Kennison.

But the high number has renewed scrutiny on overcrowding after a record number of climbing permits were issued in Nepal, and deepened concerns about the impacts of climate change on the mountain.

Locals in Nepal - the most popular jump-off point for climbers - attributed the unprecedented 900 permits to pent-up travel demand from the pandemic.

Having so many people puts pressure on "traffic jams" on the climbing route, Garrett Madison of US-based Madison Mountaineering company told Reuters news agency.

Lines form when mountaineers need to catch a window of favourable weather to reach the summit. They need to avoid jet streams or narrow bands of strong wind in the upper atmosphere. Queues can also be held up by inexperienced and unprepared climbers.

Extremely thin air on peaks higher than 8,000m (26,000 ft) makes it difficult to breathe and climbers often use oxygen canisters to survive, but logjams put pressure on supplies.



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