Everest deaths blamed on budget firms and influx of inexperienced climbers
An American mountaineer has become the 11th person in two weeks to die on Mount Everest as Sherpas and tour operators alike blame an influx of inexperienced climbers and budget tour operators for the spike in fatalities. Christopher John Kulish, 61, from Colorado, did not show any sign of distress when summiting the world’s highest mountain on Monday morning but died suddenly after descending. With a record number of climbers permitted to climb Everest this year, bottle necks have also contributed to greater exhaustion and in some instances, death. The death toll this season is the highest since 2015. The Nepalese government granted permission for 381 mountaineers to scale Everest from the southern side this spring season. Roughly 130 others will attempt to summit from the northern side in Tibet. Only around 5,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first scaled the 8,848m peak in 1953. With a permit costing $11,000 (£8,675) to scale the mountain the increase in numbers has been attributed to the Nepalese government making money to support its economy which has been hampered by political unrest and the devastating 2015 earthquake. Is it time to ban Western travellers - and their egos - from Mount Everest? Adventure tourism also plays a vital part in financially supporting the inhabitants of remote communities in north-east Nepal. However, in permitting more summits the government has allowed dozens of local budget climbing companies to emerge who charge cheaper prices but cut corners on safety. Climbing Everest with a premium, international firm can cost up to $100,000 (£78,900) while some cut-price local mountaineers charge only a quarter of this fee. The Nepalese government has for the first time said it may reduce the number of permits given to climbers next year. A government spokesperson told the Telegraph: "There are no such plans for now but there is possibility of doing so." “The biggest factor is that many inexperienced climbers are booking with low budget, local operators, who are not providing adequate support such as guide services, oxygen, medicines and leadership to ensure the climbers can ascend and descend safely,” said Garrett Madison, an American mountaineer specialising in Everest summits. Mr Madison led 29 people to a busy summit on May 23 where climbers say a bottleneck at the top caused people to wait for around 45 minutes in the perilous "death zone". A major clean-up operation ended with the recovery of 10,000 kilograms of rubbish and four dead bodies Credit: NARENDRA SHRESTHA/EPA-EFE/REX While the government says it implements background checks on prospective climbers, such as only allowing those to climb with experience of a summit over 6,000m, it has been accused of turning a blind eye to those who don’t meet criteria. “I wouldn’t say that people who sign up for Everest aren’t fully prepared as they practice for years but all who are currently attempting the summit are not professional mountaineers,” said Krishma Poudel, the Manager at Peak Promotions, a company that has organised expeditions for over 25 years. Her comments were echoed by Temba Tsheri Sherpa, who leads summits at Asia Voyage. “The largest number of climbers dying this season is because they have run out of oxygen… there are too many commercial expeditions where you pay less but get less of a service and less experienced guides,” he said. “A lot of climbers don’t have enough experience and they think the climbing is easy.” "If you want to maintain safety, the first thing is to minimise [the numbers] of climbers," Mr Tsheri Sherpa added. The Nepalese government told the Telegraph that it didn’t want to speculate on the cause of the recent spike in deaths. However, it said there was a possibility that they would reduce the number of permits given to climbers next year.
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