The tragedy of Everest's normal: 10 dead this season, so far

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Almost every year, the reports filter down from the highest mountain in the world, and talk among the climbing teams at Everest Base Camp turns to the latest person to die.

On Everest, tragedy is almost normal. Ten people have died so far in a series of accidents this climbing season, four more than mountaineering officials expect in a typical year.

On Wednesday, authorities said Sherpa rescuers found the bodies of four climbers inside a tent at the highest camp on Everest, a few thousand feet from the summit. The rescuers were in the area to recover the body of a Slovak mountaineer who had died over the weekend.

"Some years there are more, and some years there are less, but deaths on the mountain are normal," said Jiban Ghimire, who runs a prominent expedition company, Shangrila Nepal Trek. Most in the climbing world know tragedy will touch them at some point. "It is the nature of work. We can't say what will happen on the mountain," he said.

"I have lost many good friends on the mountains, which is very difficult to deal with, but that is the reality of mountaineering," Ghimire said.

The weather on Everest, already one of the most unforgiving places on Earth, was especially hard this year.

"This year it was colder, windy and snowed much more than in previous years," said Ang Tshering, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. "Even now climbers are struggling with weather."

The worst years are even more deadly. In 2014, the year an avalanche swept through Everest's Khumbu icefall, there were 16 deaths. In 2015, when an earthquake and subsequent avalanche struck during the climbing season, 19 people died.

The four bodies found in the tent were at Camp 4 at the South Col, located at 8,000 meters (26,247 feet). That is the last stop before climbers make their final push for the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit. Any recovery attempt would require many Sherpas who would have to bring the bodies down to Camp 2, where they can be winched into helicopters.

The identities of the four dead climbers found in the tent were still unknown, and other rescuers were heading there to learn more details.

Indian climber Ravi Kumar, American doctor Roland Yearwood, Slovak climber Vladimir Strba and Australian Francesco Enrico Marchetti died over the weekend, and two climbers died earlier. The climbing season begins in March and runs through the end of May to take advantage of the best weather conditions on Everest.

Recent decades have brought improvements in climbing equipment, weather forecasting and communications equipment. That makes climbing safer - but also allows less-experienced climbers to attempt the Everest summit.

The Nepalese Tourism Department issued a record 371 permits this year to people to scale the mountain. The increased number of climbers is likely because many people were unable to climb in 2014 and 2015, when the deadly avalanches disrupted climbing seasons.

Climbers who had permits for the 2014 season were allowed to receive a free replacement permit until 2019, while climbers with 2015 permits were given only until this year. The permits normally cost $11,000.


Associated Press writer Tim Sullivan in New Delhi contributed to this report.