By Agence France-Presse
Rescuers found the bodies of four climbers on Mount Everest, an expedition organizer said Wednesday, taking the season’s death toll to 10 as experts warn cut-price mountaineering outfits are putting clients at risk.
The climbers were found inside a tent at camp four — at 7,950 metres (26,085 feet) — on Tuesday by a rescue team who were there to retrieve the body of a Slovak climber who died on the mountain on Sunday.
“Our rescuers found bodies of four climbers in a tent at camp four yesterday. We don’t have the details of who they are or how they died yet,” said Mingma Sherpa, head of Seven Summit Treks, a Kathmandu-based agency that runs expeditions and rescue operations on the mountain.
Local media reported that two of the dead were foreign climbers and two were Nepali guides.
The Nepal government liaison officer stationed at base camp could not immediately be reached for confirmation.
Strong winds hit Everest on Tuesday, forcing many to abandon their summit attempts and remain in tents at camp four.
Respected mountaineering commentator Alan Arnette said it appeared the four climbers died of carbon monoxide poisoning after using camping stoves inside their tent — preventable deaths that suggested both climbers and guides lacked experience.
“This is not just sad, it is totally irresponsible — to die from carbon monoxide poisoning is to break a basic rule of camping,” he wrote on his blog.
“The foreigners paid the “guides” to take care of them. While I promote self sufficiency, and will suggest the “climbers” should have also known better, these so-called Sherpa “guides” clearly did not do their job.”
In recent years an increasing number of Kathmandu-based mountaineering companies have started offering Everest climbs at a fraction of the cost of their foreign rivals, who have traditionally dominated the market for expeditions to the world’s highest peak.
‘A worrying equation’
Everest veteran Tim Mosedale said the rise of cut-price, inexperienced companies taking ill-prepared climbers to the top was a serious concern.
“Over the years there’s been a huge dilution in the cumulative experience of staff whilst at the same time there’s been a net increase in inexperienced or poor expedition providers,” six-time Everest summiteer Mosedale, who runs expeditions to Everest, recently posted on Facebook.
“When you combine this with a decline in the amount of experience of the clients who are accepted on board it’s a worrying equation.”
This year a record 373 permits were issued to foreign climbers to summit Everest from the Nepal side, with another 136 granted permission to ascend from the north face in Tibet.
Four people perished on the 8,848-metre peak over the weekend, including American doctor Roland Yearwood and Slovak climber Vladimir Strba.
Both died above the 8,000 metre mark — an area known as the mountain’s “death zone” where oxygen levels fall to dangerously low levels, heightening the risk of altitude sickness.
The body of Indian climber Ravi Kumar, 27, was spotted on Monday two days after he summited and then lost contact.
An Australian climber died on the Tibet side of the mountain on Sunday.
This season has also claimed the lives of legendary Swiss climber Ueli Steck and 85-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan, who died attempting to reclaim his title as the world’s oldest person to climb Everest.
More than 382 climbers, both foreign and Nepali, have successfully reached the summit from the south side so far this season, with at least 120 doing so from the Tibet side.
Many are still waiting to make their final push to the summit before the monsoon arrives in early June, marking the end of the short spring climbing season.
Last year Everest claimed the lives of five climbers. In all, 640 people reached the summit.