Everest 2012: Weekend Update May 20 – Summits! – Death Update 3

Everest Plume
Everest Plume

Update 3: Season summary – 8 Confirmed deaths, 1 Missing:

40 year-old Karsang Namgyal Sherpa climbing with Prestige Adventures related to alcohol at base camp; Peak Freaks’ Namgyal Tshering Sherpa fell from a ladder into a crevasse near C1; Dawa Tenzing with Himex from stroke and died in Kathmandu; 33 year-old Indian, Ramesh Gulve, climbing with the Pune team suffered a stroke around Camp2 and died back in India. Dr Ebehard Schaaf with Asian Trekking of HACE near South Summit, Shriya Shah-Klorfine, 33, a Nepali-born Canadian, Song Won Bin from South Korea died at the Balcony from AMS and then a fall. Chinese climber, Ha Wenyi. A Nepali Sherpa guide has been missing since May 19.

Update 2: 4 Deaths

This report from the Nepal Ministry:

According to Tilak Ram Pandey, Liaison Officer, Department of Mountaineering at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shriya Shah, a Canadian Non-Resident Nepali and Dr Schaff Erich, a climber from Germany, lost their lives while descending from the top of the Mount Everest.

“Shah died near Everest summit, while Schaff breathed his last at the South Cole,” Pandey told THT over phone from Everest Base Camp. Shriya, who was born in Kathmandu in 1979 and grew up in Mumbai, was the owner and president of SOS Splash of Style Inc, a company recognised as the exclusive importer of Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Khazana’ products in Canada.

Meanwhile, Song Won Bin from South Korea, a Chinese climber and a Nepali Sherpa guide have been missing since Saturday. “Fellow climbers are searching for them,” Pandey said.

More information on Shriya Shah and her website. She was climbing with Utmost Adventure Trekking out of Kathmandu. Very, very sad.

More information on Song Won Bin.

Update 1: 4 Deaths

I can confirm that there were 3 deaths, probably 4, on the May 19th summit push. Western guides reports 3 bodies on the South Col route near the South Summit and 1 person apparently suffering from severe HACE. Their names, countries or teams are unknown but the deaths have been confirmed.

As I previously reported, Asian Trekking chairman, Ang Tshering Sherpa, reported that  Dr. Eberhard Schaaf of Germany, climbing with AT died from high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) at the south summit.

If I have a summit number on the location table, those teams have not published any reports of death or injuries from their respective summits teams. Obviously, I don’t track every team or climber if they don’t publish public information. So if their team is not on the list, I have no way of knowing anything about them.

I know this is horrible news and those who have not heard from climbers they were following are quite upset. All I can suggest is to contact the company they arranged their climb with if you have not heard from them directly. Please do not contact me as I have no further information or means to find out more details at this point. However, I will post confirmed  information as I receive it on this site.

The normal fatality process is that the Nepal Government Liaison Officer assigned to each team files a report with the Nepal Ministry of Tourism who then issues a press release. The families are usually notified immediately by the expedition organizer.

Last night, the weather was very difficult with high winds and low temperatures. There were many summits but also many teams turned backed. Note, it appears these deaths were not related to the earlier Lhotse Face rockfall or Kumbu Icefall dangers.

Normally I wait to post such information until there are more details but news of these deaths are all over the climber’s blogs and creating massive anxiety, thus I felt I would share what I could 100% confirm.

My sincere condolences to all the families, teammates, and friends.

If there was one word that described this week it has to be “whiplash”.

The excitement, uncertainty and drama of Everest 2012 continued to captivate climbers and non climbers alike. This week we saw a bit of everything from summits to turn-arounds to false starts to full out res. And sadly one death that was reported.

I estimate there have been over 300 summits this week alone.


The week started perfectly with the teams on the South side working together to contribute the Sherpa power needed to fix the lines to the summit.

It was a classic “brotherhood of the rope” moment with Sherpas from IMG, Jagged Globe, Patagonia Bros, Rimo, AAI, Chilean, North Face, Peak Freaks, Adventure Consultants,  7 Summits, and Asian Trekking all working together to attach over 1000 meters or 3300 feet of rope to the icy flanks of Everest all the way to the summit.

However, once complete, the flood gates opened and teams were already positioned at the South Col in anticipation.

Weather Windows

Lhotse face above C3 on May 18, 2012. Courtesy of Cian Brolchain
Lhotse Face above C3 on May 18, 2012. Courtesy of Cian Brolchain

At this point in any Everest season, the weather dominates everything. Two weather windows had been identified. The first was around May 18th and the second, May 25th. With the warm conditions, low snow in April and early May, combined with rock fall and avalanches, almost every climber and Sherpa wanted to get up and off Everest ASAP.

This sense of urgency translated into one of the largest crowds the South side has ever experienced. Over 200 climbers snaked their way up the Lhotse Face this week, jugging the lines towards Camp 3 and then to the South Col with laser like focus on summing on the morning of May 19th.

A large concern was this window was viewed as narrow with high winds picking back up towards the end of the period. That combined with the crowds caused many teams on the South to make the safe bet to wait for the second window.

The same movie was being shown on the North but, in already almost constant windy conditions, they knew if they wanted to summit this year, it was going to be in high winds, no matter what the forecast said.

In the midst of all this, Conrad Anker pulled the plug on the National Geographic sponsored climb of the West Ridge due to dangerous icy conditions on the ridge proper. He said he would join their South Col team in the second window. The Eddie Bauer effort remained coy but I fully expect the same decision.

South Summits

Not content to wait for the Sherpa rope fixers, a very strong and experienced Chilean team climbed along with them and had the honor of claiming the first summit of 2012. Led by Chilean Rodrigo Jordan, a legend in Chile with summits of Everest’s Kanshung Face in 1992,  a 1996 K2 ascent, and many more impressive climbs; his team of 10 plus 10 Sherpas set the standard for 2012.

In a moment of pure honor, the Sherpas stepped aside as Rodrigo claimed the summit on May 18th. Oh and Über speed climber Ueli Steck with Nepalese climber Tenzing (last name or village not mentioned) summited along with this group without using supplemental oxygen

Then the flood gates opened with over 150 climbers making their way up the dark Triangular Face towards the Balcony, onto the Southeast Ridge only to personally experience the dreaded bottleneck at the Hillary Step early on May 19th. But they worked through it and over 100 summited.

It was an impressive performance from many small, independent teams but also the large commercial outfits including:

  • International Mountain Guides (IMG): 22
  • Adventure Consultants: 16
  • Pune: 8
  • Peak Freaks: 7
  • S2/Windhorse: 4

The winds started to pick up as they returned to the South Col. Most will consider themselves fortunate to have made the round trip this crowded day. Sadly, I will not be surprised as we learn some of the dark secrets of that night.

The last of the teams for this first window got ready to leave after dark on Saturday night, May 19.

Peak Freaks pulled their second team based at Camp 3 back to base camp not wanting to climb in the high winds, preferring to wait for the next window.

Adventure Consultants was all dressed up and ready to go but pulled the plug at 10PM not liking the poor visability, snow and high wind gusts. It appeared other teams would follow suit. But it was quiet. No news was good news? Then Alpine Ascents said they were above the Balcony climbing slow and steady in tough conditions. A small European team turned around in the harsh conditions.

I soon learned of a small American effort that was above the Hillary Step; it seemed that we were seeing an amazing demonstration of determination. AAI put almost their entire team on the summit, 14 in all. There were more but not all have posted their results.

However, tragedy did strike. Asian Trekking chairman, Ang Tshering Sherpa, reported that  Dr. Eberhard Schaaf of Germany, climbing with AT died from high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) at the south summit. My sincere condolences to his family.

Just like in a large family, everyone is special but a few stood out this week on the South:

  • Bangladeshi Nishat Majumder and M A Muhit
  • UK Youth: Becky Bellworthy (20), Mollie Hughes (21), Matthew Dieumegard-Thornton (21),
  • UK’s young Female ever: Leanna Shuttleworth (18). She is hoping to grab Lhotse as well but no updates as of this post. UPDATE: She will not be attempting Lhotse due to the high winds.

North Summits

With smaller crowds but similar weather, the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) team of rope fixers finally got that side completed just as the large Chinese national team pushed up the cold and windy Northeast Ridge on May 18th.

There was quite a line behind them with summits for all including Altitude Junkies (11) and the 7 Summits Club (16) plus others on the morning of May 19th.

A notable summit belonged to a legend of Everest, 73 year old Japanese  Tamae Watanabe who broke her own record for the oldest female summit. Also a tip of the ice axe to Russian: Fyodor Konyukhov at age 60 who topped out with the 7 Summits Club.

The night of the 19th was extreme on the north, just like the South and some made it, others not. 7 Summits Club put 13 on the ceiling. SummitClimb, apparently not having weather information of their own, abandoned their summit bid when a large team next to aborted their push even though they were already to Camp 2. The extreme winds of May 20 forced them back to base camp to plan for the next window.  However, one of their team continued, summiting with two Sherpas.

70 year-old American Bill Burke, who holds the record for oldest American to Summit and return, was climbing was a team from Asian Trekking turned back at the Second Step early Sunday May 20th morning, citing “weather was horrible, wind blowing, snowing, miserable.” This was quite the disappointment for Bill who was attempting a double summit. He left the South side without an attempt a few weeks ago as the conditions remained difficult.

Again, there were many more summits on the North that will be reported as they return to base camp or home.

One More time

Not to be left out, even formidable Lhotse Peak saw summits as the fixed line made it the summit led by Damian Benegas,  Ben Jones from AAI joined him.

We will see a lull for a few days as the Jetstream reminds the climbers that it owns Everest and they are visitors. Hopefully the second window will open as advertised and we will see another set of safe summits late in the week.

Climbers are leaving base camp today to get in position. Kenton Cool, attempting to fulfill an 88 year old pledge made at the closing ceremony of the 1924 Olympics to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, is already at Camp 2 carrying the Olympic Gold Medal won by Great Britain for Alpinisme.

Congratulations to all, regardless of your result for staying with this difficult season.


I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I am just one guy who loves climbing. With 30 serious climbing expeditions including four Everest trips under my belt and a summit last year, this site tries to share those experiences, demystify Everest each year and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease. My mom died from this disease a few years ago as did two of my aunts. It was a heartbreaking experience that I never want anyone to go through thus my ask for donations to non-profits where 100% goes to them, and nothing to me.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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53 thoughts on “Everest 2012: Weekend Update May 20 – Summits! – Death Update 3

  1. Dear Robin,

    Please convey our heart felt sympathies to the wife, son and daughter of Sherpa Dawa Tenzing. He will be missed dearly and may God rest his soul in peace.

    Rai family

  2. Once again a very careful well thought out comment Alan. After all the excitement of knowing, in part through you, the success of my teams that I have followed I feel I must place a comment to say how saddened I am to hear of the recent deaths. We all know it is to be expected with the numbers climbing this year but we all know it could easily have been one of our loved ones. I send my sincere condolences to their families and friends and hope that they find a little comfort in the fact that their loved one died doing something they enjoyed doing even when the odds were against them. Cheers Kate S

  3. Alan,

    Every year I follow your Everest coverage and I think it’s excellent! I’m saddened to hear of the deaths this year. I pray and send thoughts of strength and comfort to the families, even though I don’t know them. Also, last year when you summited I was SO excited for you!

  4. Alan, missing climber; Song Won Bin from South Korea, a Chinese climber and a Japanese climber are “presumed” dead on the mountain. more people are being reported missing, could you please confirm.

  5. Does anyone have any news of the Korean team from Seoul National University Alpine Club?

  6. Bangladeshi Nishat Majumder and M A Muhit:

    Nishat Majumder: First Bangladeshi to summit Everest
    M A Muhit: Second Bangladeshi to summit Everest (2011) and first Bangladeshi to summit from both North and South side.

  7. My Condolences to the families of the Brave hearts who died high up pursuing their Dreams.

    Alan, your Posts are amazing & informative.

  8. Today we are deeply sadden to learn of the death of my BEST friend and dear sister, Shriya Shah. Shriya is the most courageous and loving person I have ever encountered in my life. She has dedicated her life towards helping others and this was her life-long dream of climbing to the summit. She made it! We are so proud of her. We will miss her dearly. Our love, thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have lost their loved ones. Thank you Alan for your report.

    1. Shelly may I express my deepest sympathies from all of us following Everest.

    2. shelly, i’m really very sorry, though i cant completely understand what you are feeling, as i am faced with tragedy here too, we lost a friend & fellow climber ramesh gulave this season on everest and most of us dont know how to come to terms with the loss we are faced with here. pl accept my deepest sympathies and condolences, please lean on us anytime.

  9. alan, request please post any info you get asap, on the remaining two deaths, keeping the names unknown is creating uber tension with folks who have family on the mountain.

  10. Alan,
    Firstly my sincere condolences to the familes and friends regarding the four fatalities, terrible news. From a non-climber and avid follower of your blog you are doing a tremendous job in keeping the uninitiated, friends and family alike informed. It is great to see that close family members are also using your updates as a source for good news, sadly over-shadowed.
    From an outsiders perspective, I find that picture of the Lohtse face incredulous, surely that kind of backlog or queuing is asking for trouble. I realise that the window is small but do you think there will come a time when the climbing numbers are limited?.

  11. Just super coverage Alan; very grateful for it.

    Will keep those who have died and their families in my thoughts and prayers.


  12. Alan,
    Thanks for the way you posted the news of these deaths.

    Condolences to all the immediate families, relatives, friends and team members of those who died.

  13. As ever, you are fulfilling an important function with these dispatches Mr. Arnette; the best on the web. Thank you from an Armchair Observer.

    Sincere condolences to the loved ones of those that will not return.

    Big congratulations to those who reached their goal of Summit, or achieved their “personal best”.

    Best of luck to everyone still on the mountain.

  14. My sincerest regret goes out to all of the families & friends of those who paid the ultimate price in search of their dream. My prayers are with you all in this desperate time.

  15. The guy second guessing Himex yesterday still happy with his post ?! Hindsight 20/20.. Foresight.. priceless!! Respect to Russ as always. RIP

  16. Alan,
    My thought go out to the family of Dr. Eberhard, As I was the base camp manager for AT this year running communications & media, he was part of our team and he quickly became part of the BC family. A great outgoing guy that was happy to help any climber with a medical question or need. However, most of the time he was complaining of sinus pain across his forehead. He was taking Dex at BC, but we never thought anything of HACE. Now I question if there was something we should have know or seen, however he did visit HRA. His best friend Paul Thelen was climbing also and I know he is devastated. A great loss!!

  17. alan, can you put these 4 deaths on a summit day on Everest into context? assuming the worst us true, has there been another day like this on everest since ’96?

    also for context, which were the large companies that went up from the Col and which decided at the Col not to attempt the summit on the 19th?

    also, do we know that none of these “4” deaths happened on the summit attempt of the 18th?

    thank you for all of your efforts.

    1. Jason, this is the worst since ’96 if they all happened on one night (20th early morning). It is almost certain but there is a chance one or more could have occurred the night before, I just don’t think so as with so, so many people it would have been reported that same day (19th early morning). Also the weather was significantly worse on the 19/20 than 18/19.

  18. I confirmed 4 deaths near the South Summit last night, no names, teams or countries known as of this time. Please read the post for details.

  19. Dear Alan,
    Congratulations, you have the best blog to everyone who likes to read about the Everet.

    Regars from Brazil

  20. Hi Alan, thank you so much for your effort.Just want to know if you have any information about the Indian army women expedition team.

    1. Hi Robin, A lot of interest in this team, for good reason! Given they are not posting on a website that I am aware of, all we can go on are press articles mainly from India. They say they left for this past summit push but there are no further updates or results.

      1. the indian army team has turned back from camp 4, i am told the hmi team also may not have made it, i have no information on the Itbp team climbing from the north side, my friend rajeev has also turned back from camp 4 due to increasingly inclement weather. we will know more today, as climbers are expected with real time news to bc.

    1. not Jon Chris, it was Jacques Puyo over on the North side. No word on the SC South team …

  21. Alan, you are the dude!! Keep those updates coming! Checking in again on where the S2/Windhorse group might be? After they reached the summit on the morning of the 19th, we haven’t heard any thing since. I know they don’t report in much, but any idea where they are on the mountain? Any update sure would be nice! Thanks Alan. –Matt Burton, Ogden UT

    1. Matt the “normal” schedule is to return to either the South Col or to Camp 2, take a day and then back to base camp. So they are probably at least to Camp 2 today, Sunday in Nepal and will get down tomorrow. That is the same schedule as others who summited on the morning of the 19

  22. Firstly I must express my condolences to Dr. Dr Dr Eberhard Schaaf and his family. I wish every other climber the best when ascending over the next couple of weeks.

  23. Thank you for an amazing website. I have been reading your updates every day recently. My daughter, Becky Bellworthy, aged 20, achieved her dream of climbing Everest yesterday becoming youngest British female to climb Everest, although I see Leanna Shuttleworth has just pinched the record from her!! Great photos and information.

    1. My sincere congratulations Anne on Becky’s achievement. Remarkable at age 20!

  24. Sad to read of the loss of the Doctor and that photograph scares me ridged! Thank you x

  25. Thank you so much for your efforts at keeping us posted, Alan. And thank you for replying. Will keep a watchful eye out on your blog for any news from Everest. For those of us here who have loved ones and family up there your blog is something we are glued to.

  26. Do you have any information or comment on Chad Kellogs fb post this morning regarding the 6 that died ? Sorry for the morbid question…

    1. David, I have not seen this and don’t have access to his page. There has been one reported death from this push. I mentioned it on today’s Weekend Update.

    2. David got a copy of his post and don’t believe it is 100% accurate.

      There have been many rumors posted today but without details. There has only been one confirmed report from Asian Trekking. I tend to discount the reports of rumors as I have said in my coverage protocol. While not all the summit teams from 18/19/20 have checked in through their websites, it is highly unlikely there was multiple tragedies of this scope but let’s wait for operators to get solid information out if it is. I’ll check as I am able.

      1. David, I have confirmed 4 deaths near the South Summit last night. I have updated my Weekend update post with as much as I know.

        1. 4 deaths are confirmed 3 ppl missing is confirmed, more details will be known today

  27. Alan you have the best most comprhensive
    Info for familes at home I am asummateer
    My self in 2009 with my husband Noel Hanna who made his 5 th everest summit
    This year with7summits club thank you sooo much for your time and effort xox
    Lynne Hanna Ireland.

    1. Ha! Lynne! Found you here too! I love Alan (love you Alan!) as he is truly amazing at keeping everyone updated…and he’s raised a lot of money for a wonderful cause.

    1. Lakyn, I’m not aware of any summit attempts until May 23. The Does the Indian team have a website?

      1. Hey, Alan, not that i know of. They are a women’s team, part of the Indian Army’s efforts. I am very anxious and have been glued to your blog all day. I hope everyone up there is safe. Waiting for any word but so far, nothing =(

        1. lakyn, they have turned back from camp 4. i dont know if they will decide to halt back at camp 2, and make a summit push again for the 25th window, if they (or some of them) do, it will be a commendable effort. all my best to them. personally however i would advise coming away from the mountain, there is next time to try.

          1. Thanks, Ameet. I just saw this post. That’s what i feel too regarding them halting at C2 and making an attempt at the upcoming window. If they are, I wish them luck and hope they are successful. If not, i think we should have heard by now. Anxiously waiting any news!

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