A traffic jam of climbers in the Everest "death zone" was blamed for two of four new deaths reported Friday, heightening concerns that the drive for profits is trumping safety on the world's highest peak.
Nepal has issued a record 381 permits costing $11,000 each for the current spring climbing season, bringing in much-needed money for the impoverished Himalayan country. But a small window of suitable weather before the short season ends has in recent days triggered bottlenecks of hundreds of climbers wanting to achieve, although perhaps not for purists, the ultimate in mountaineering.
The four latest deaths reported on Friday, taking the toll from a deadly week on the overcrowded peak to eight, include two Indians and a Nepali on the Nepal side and an Austrian on the way down on the northern Tibetan side, officials and expedition organizers said.
Mountaineering in Nepal has become a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953. Most Everest hopefuls are escorted by a Nepali guide, meaning more than 750 climbers were expected to tread the same path to the top in the current season. At least 140 others have been granted permits to scale Everest from the northern flank in Tibet, according to expedition operators. This could take the total past last year's record of 807 people reaching the summit.
Eight other climbers have died on other 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks this season, while two are missing. In 2015, 18 people were killed at the Everest base camp because of an avalanche triggered by a quake.
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