After two disastrous years, Mount Everest’s 2016 climbing season has seen nearly
400 summits—from both Tibet and Nepal—during the good weather since May 11. But with good conditions also come hordes of climbers
and this year has seen more than 30 cases of severe frostbite, three deaths and two missing climbers on Everest.
“This was a man-made disaster that may have been minimized with better management of the teams,” Ang Tshering Sherpa of the Nepal Mountaineering Association
told the Associated Press on Monday. “The last two disasters on Everest were caused by nature, but not this one.”
He suggested that overcrowding, along with poor organization, caused traffic jams at bottlenecks and forced climbers to wait in long lines on the descent—reminiscent
of Everest’s 2012 season when 11 climbers died under clear skies, stuck for hours in line and unable to get off the mountain.
This season’s summit count started ticking on May 11, when a nine-member Sherpa team, led by Shea Gyaljen Sherpa, finished fixing ropes to top. Theirs
were the first ascents of Everest in two years. With fixed ropes in place and good weather in the forecast, climbers sieged the summit.
Three Deaths on Everest
Eric Ary Arnold, a 36-year-old Dutch man, died in his tent at Camp IV on Everest’s South Col Friday, May 20.
He had reached the summit with his expedition team earlier that day.
“During the ascent he was doing well, but after the South Summit he was struggling a bit,” Arnold Coster, the expedition leader for the Seven Summit Treks
team Arnold was on, wrote in an official statement. “Descending from the summit he became slower and slower and it became clear that something was
Arnold’s Sherpa climbing partner requested another Sherpa team member to hike up with more supplementary oxygen. The team managed to bring Arnold down
to Camp IV at the South Col.
“…he looked beaten, but mentally fine,” Coster wrote. “We brought him to his tent, gave him more oxygen, lots of drinks and food and it looked like
he was recovering.
“Unexpectedly Eric passed away that evening in his tent accompanied by a member and Sherpa…”
His death cause of death is thought to be from a heart attack.
This was Arnold’s fourth attempt at Everest. His previous expeditions “ended in disaster,” he told Annie Gowen of The Washington Post in an interview the day before he left for Everest’s Base Camp.
In 2012, only yards from the summit, he was forced to retreat due to deteriorating weather. In 2014 he was there when an avalanche caused by collapsing
ice blocks killed sixteen Sherpas below Camp II.
And in 2015, Arnold was in Base Camp when the earthquake-triggered avalanche of April 25 swept through, killing 18 and injuring more than 60.
Nonetheless, he returned to Everest this season motivated to fulfill his childhood dream of standing on top of the world’s highest peak. He reached the summit, along with over 40 other climbers, on Friday,
and it is just below the summit where his body will likely remain.
Maria Strydom, 34, a finance professor from Australia, was on the same expedition team as Eric Arnold. On summit
day, she was “doing well until the ‘Balcony,’ Coster stated, “but became very slow after this and decided to turn around on the South Summit at 8 a.m.”
The rest of her team, including her husband Robert Gropal, pushed on.
Strydom descended with the assistance of a Sherpa but her condition “deteriorated rapidly,” Coster wrote. “Halfway between the South Summit and Balcony
she was hardly able to move and became very confused.
“Her husband and several Sherpa struggled all night to bring her down and miraculously she made it back to the South Col 2 a.m.” She had spent 31 hours
in the Death Zone above 26,000 feet.
The next morning, May 21, she felt well enough to continue to Camp III—and the hopes of a helicopter evacuation—under her own power and with
“Marisa was able to walk herself, but two hours out of camp she collapsed on the ‘Geneva Spur,’” Coster wrote. “Her husband tried to retrieve her, but
this was not possible anymore.”
Strydom had suffered from snow blindness followed by a stroke, which ended her life, Shiva Bahadur Sapkota, a liaison officer for Nepal’s Department of
Tourism at Everest Base Camp, reported to The Himalayan Times.
Gropal, her husband, tried to carry her body down, but he was suffering from high altitude pulmonary edema. Gropal descended to Camp II where he was evacuated by helicopter the next day. He
is in a hospital in Kathmandu and is reported to make a full recovery.
The husband and wife team were trying to climb the Seven Summits and had completed Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and Denali. Strydom, a vegan, was attempting
Everest to prove that “vegans could do anything.”
“At the moment we are assembling a rescue team to try to retrieve the bodies,” Coster wrote. “These tragic events numbed the whole team and our thoughts
are with their family and friends. May they rest in peace.”
Subhash Paul, 43, reached the summit of Mt. Everest on Saturday with Sunita Hazra, Paresh Nath and Goutam Ghosh
as part of an Indian climbing expedition.
According to The Times of India,
Paul collapsed while descending the Hillary Step between Everest’s true summit and the South Summit. Sherpa helped him descend but he died between
Camp IV and Camp III. The other team members became separated somewhere along the South Col.
“It is not clear what happened. We believe the weather suddenly deteriorated at some point, and the team lost direction,” Wanchu Sherpa, Managing Director
of Trekking Camp Nepal, told CNN.
According to CNN, expedition officials managed to locate Hazra on Sunday, though where on the mountain is unclear, and she was airlifted to safety.
Nath and Ghosh have been missing since Saturday.
Major Mirza Zahid of the Indian army, who is at Mt. Everest Base Camp, told CBS News that
the bodies of Nath and Ghosh have been found, although, this report is unconfirmed.
Everest’s spring climbing season is coming to a close as the end of May brings warmer weather and the monsoon. Many climbers
will begin their descents from higher camps, having summited or not, and others will continue a final summit push.
Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards, two climbers recording their Everest expedition live on Snapchat at #everestnofilter, plan to summit tonight. They
are climbing without the use of supplemental oxygen.
“We leave at 10 p.m. for our #Everest summit push,” Ballinger posted on Instagram. “A
lot of bullshit is going on around us – stolen oxygen bottles, poached tents, climbers taking it too close to the edge. We’re going to do our best
to keep our ascent attempt clean, succeed or fail.”
I’m not a wordy guy at 8300 meters/27,000 feet. @coryrichards and I made it to the highest camp on the planet. It hurt a lot. We leave at 10pm for our #Everest summit push. A lot of bullshit is going on around us – stolen oxygen bottles, poached tents, climbers taking it too close to the edge. We’re going to do our best to keep our ascent attempt clean, succeed or fail. #everestnofilter #everest2016
A photo posted by Adrian Ballinger (@adrianballinger) on