Mount Everest continues to claim lives; six people died in 2016 alone. The death of a South African-born, Australian Lecturer Dr. Maria Strydom, on May 22, is the latest in a year littered with corpses. A Dutchman, three Indians and a Sherpa guide are some of the victims of this 8,850-meter peak.
Dr. Strydom, a Finance Professor at Monash Business School in Australia became fatigued when she was nearing the summit and turned back. Her husband Robert Gropel continued and conquered Mount Everest. On his way back he found that his wife’s condition had deteriorated and she died a few moments later. Dr. Strydom joined a list of 300 people who have died trying to conquer Mount Everest in this century. Most bodies are hidden in crevasses or covered by snow and ice. Some are visible to the other climbers and the most famous have earned nicknames like Green Boots, Sleeping Beauty and The German.
Most of the victims of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, succumbed to a condition known as altitude sickness or mountain sickness. It is caused by gaining altitude too rapidly and does not allow the body enough time to adjust to reduced oxygen and changes in air pressure. This results in a condition known as hypoxia (lack of oxygen). In severe cases, fluid builds up within the lungs, the brain or both. Symptoms of the illness include headaches, lethargy, a lack of coordination, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and insomnia.
The Mount Everest’s Death Zone is the most critical part of the climbing process. It is a high altitude zone, around 8,000 meters and challenges of survival significantly rise. Lack of oxygen and high winds make survival more difficult, and one should not stay more than 16-20 hours in this area.
Mount Everest’s Death Zone continues to claim lives, 200 climbers have died since 1953. Without proper acclimatization, a person accustomed to breathing at sea level will faint within two to three minutes. Despite the adversities, climbers have made it back over the years. Reports show that one in twenty climbers die on their way back from the summit of Mount Everest. One-quarter of the climbers also suffers from retinal hemorrhage, which usually heals on the way back down the mountain but can be deadly in the Death Zone.
Taking down the bodies of the victims of Mount Everest is a very difficult task. The conditions in the Death Zone,
The mountain sometimes gives up its victims after a long time. Melting snow and glacial activity have made it possible to locate victims. George Malloy, an English climber, who disappeared in 1924 and was found in 1999. A Sherpa guide who had fallen in a crevice in 2005 emerged in 2013 near a base camp. Climate change, which is usually accompanied by a rise in temperatures is causing the ice to thaw on Mount Everest, which will turn up corpses. Reports indicate that more bodies will be found on the mountain in the next 10 years. However, it remains to be seen if these victims can be buried with dignity by their loved ones. In the meantime, Mount Everest continues to claim lives.
By Tinyiko Chauke
Edited by Cathy Milne
Daily Mail: “She died in my arms” Husband who conquered Mount Everest speaks of his grief after his wife died from altitude sickness as it’s revealed the pair made their wills before embarking on the trip
hindustantimes: A dangerous task on Mount Everest Bringing down the body
Indiatoday: Dying on Mount Everest: All you need to know about the Everest Death Zone
Image Courtesy of Brigitte Djajasasmita Khumbu Icefall’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License