05/22/2012, 00.00

Four climbers, one Chinese, die because of overcrowding on Everest

The last dead climber was found this mourning above 8,000 metres near the summit. All four died of hypothermia. They were part of about 150 climbers going up the mountain.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - A fourth climber was found on Mt Everest bringing the death toll from the weekend to four. Chinese climber Ha Wenyi was found frozen to death near the top of the roof of the world, where Nepali-born Canadian Shriya Shah, German Eberhard Schaaf, and South Korean Song Won-bin also died. All four were part of a group of 150 people who left base camp on 18 May. Doctors say they died from hypothermia and lack of oxygen.

The death of the four climbers has reopened the issue of the safety of mountaineering on Mt Everest and the role of the Nepali government in promoting and supporting the activity.

For centuries, the mountain was thought to be nearly impossible to climb. However, in the past few decades, it has become a dangerous tourist destination open to less experienced climbers.

The authorities have also lowered safety requirements to climb the world's highest mountain to boost tourism, which is the main resource for local populations.

The climbing season runs from late March to the first week in June. Bottlenecks form between base camp at 7,900 metres and the summit. The area between 8,000 and 8,850 metres has become a virtual death zone.

At this altitude, the human body can resist only two hours because of cold temperatures (down to minus 50 degrees Celsius) and lack of oxygen.

 "With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen," Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha said.

For the expert, most climbers start the climb to late. In the afternoon, the risk of snowstorms increases and climbers are advised not to try for the summit after 11 am. The four who died were making their way down at 2.30 pm.

Since 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climbed the mountain for the first time, about 4,000 people have reached the top of the Everest. However, more than 200 have died.

Given the high number of fatalities, Sherpas have asked the Nepali government to impose a ceiling on the number of climbers who go up per season and adopt a more stringent set of rules.

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