The death toll climbed to ten, perhaps eleven, for the spring 2023 season, with multiple climbers missing. Wednesday, May 24th, may be the last summit day this season.
On Sunday, May 21, Australian Jason Bernard Kennison, 40, climbing with Asian Trekking, died near the Balcony on his ascent. The Himalayan Times reported that Dawa Steven Sherpa, MD of Asian Trekking, said that his top two Sherpas who were with him noticed, “Jason started showing abnormal behavior from the South Summit and Sherpa guides brought him to the Balcony area. They ran out of oxygen, and bringing supplement bottles from Camp IV couldn’t be possible due to excessive winds,” Dawa Steven then told his Sherpas to descend to Camp IV without taking any risk to their lives. He went on to say that “Jason, who collapsed near the balcony area, refused to move with Sherpa guides, and his body is still in the Balcony area.”
And Dawa Steven told ExWeb that a Sherpa reportedly died from a presumed heart attack at Camp 2, but I’ve not been able to confirm if that is a new case or one from May 16.
Chaos on Everest
There are two officially missing climbers and probably more from first-hand reports I’m receiving from the mountain. One climber who summited gave me this first-person report:
I think there might be one or two more not reported yet. When we were at 2 we heard about the Sherpa who’s hands froze at 4 and died. Just going from 3 to 4 they were bringing 2 bodies down, then on the summit push one clearly dead liked Chinese, one half alive but missing a boot and handling off the traverse, and when I got back to camp 4 one new dead on the trail that couldn’t have been more than 3 hours old because he wasn’t there when my faster teammates made it back. My buddy shook the body and clearly dead
On Friday, May 19, 2023, Malaysian climber Muhammad Hawari Bin Hashimgot, 33, went missing after he summited. He is deaf and mute. Sherpas have searched every camp for him with no success. Founder of Pioneer Expeditions, Ngaa Tenji Sherpa, made an urgent plea on Instagram for assistance in finding his client:
We are desperately searching for a person named Hawari from Malaysia. He went missing at an altitude of 7,995 meters during the descent on May 19, right after successfully reaching the summit of Mount Everest. The situation is critical, and time is running out. We have been searching since the time he went missing. We are pleading with anyone who may have spotted a stranded climber to immediately contact me at the Everest Base Camp (EBC). Every second counts in this race against time! Mountaineering is an incredibly perilous activity, fraught with numerous risks and dangers. As fellow adventurers, we understand the inherent challenges involved. Now, more than ever, we need your support and assistance to locate our missing climber. This message is a matter of utmost urgency and should not be taken lightly. We must act now!
On the same team was another Malaysian, Ag Askandar Bin Ampuan Yaacub, who got above South Sumit, then became ill. Sherpas tried to get him back to Camp 4 before losing his life. Both Malaysian climbers were with Nepali operator Pioneer Adventures.
And more details about missing Singaporean climber Shrinivas Sainis Dattatraya, 39, last sent a text message to his wife on Friday saying he had reached the summit of Everest, but he was not likely to make it back down. His wife told The Straits Times, said she last heard from him at 3.30 pm on Friday. There has been no word from him since. Madam Soma said: “Through his satellite phone, he told me that he had made it to the summit. But then he followed with bad news, saying he would not be able to make it down.” He was with Seven Summit Treks.
There were probably over 400 total summits on the Nepal side. There have been no summit reports from the expected Chinese National teams on the Tibet side, but they rarely promote their local teams. All the usual suspects reported summits: 7 Summit Club, 8K Expeditions, 14 Peaks, Altitude Junkies, Climbalaya, Climbing the Seven Summits, Dreamer’s Destination, Elite, Furtenbach Adventures, Imagine Nepal, IMG, Kaitu, Pioneer Adventures, Seven Sumit Treks, and more.
Of note Hari Budha Magar, 43, who can claim to be the first double above-the-knee amputee to climb Mt Everest. He was a Former British Gurkha soldier. Kiwi Mark Inglis paved the way for double amputees with his Everest summit in 2006 with Russell Brice’s Himex team on the Tibet side. His amputations were below the knee.
Kenton Cool got his 17th Everest, a non-Sherpa record, and Kami Rita Sherpa set a new overall record with his 27th.
There were summits on Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga. On Dhaulagiri, Carlos Soria, 84, who broke his leg on his summit push, and was successfully helicoptered to a hospital in Kathmandu.
Climbers needing rescues are providing marketing fodder for the high-profile rescue teams, and the press is eating it up. In my view, while the rescues are outstanding and what the climbing community should do (and mostly do without hesitation), the questions the press should be asking are why the rescues are occurring in the first place and who should be held accountable.
Of course, people get in trouble fishing, running, sailing and climbing. Sometimes the stress of altitude combined with the physicality of climbing takes a life – that’s the deal you make when you go to a peak like Everest. But there is a serious trend on the 8000ers that demands review. That said, I’m the first person to advocate for everyone’s right to climb a mountain as long as they are well prepared, have the appropriate experience, be as self-sufficient as possible, and are informed of risks and safety plans by going with credible, proven operators with excellent safety records.
However, many questions go unanswered. Why are the same operators usually involved? Why are climbers left alone? Why are most people who get in trouble from the same part of the world? Is it time for countries globally to have a minimum requirement for their toughest peaks? Is it time for operators to ask their potential clients more questions about their experience rather than just cashing the check? Why does Nepal continue to ban using helicopters to get safety ropes to Camp 2, and operators having uncessary luxeries at C2 forcing Sherpas to increase the number of times they cross it to stock these high camps and install saftey lines? How many more have to die?
Gelje Sherpa, shared on IG his experience of finding a climber in trouble and alone:
You may all be wondering where is the summit photo? Unfortunately no summit yet. At the Balcony during our summit push around 8,300m I saw someone in danger. A man who needed rescuing and no one else was helping. I made the decision to cancel our clients summit push so that I could bring him down to safety before he died up there alone. I carried him myself all the way down to Camp 4 where a rescue team helped from then on. I will be back up the mountain soon after regaining energy from a huge task but I am so happy to say he is alive and recovering in hospital.
Kudos to Gelje, but how did this person get in this situation?
Madison Mountaineering reported from Camp 3 on this summit push that the winds had let up, as predicted. They will spend a full day as planned at the South Col, aiming to summit on Wednesday morning, May 24. Other teams scheduled to summit on Wednesday include Alpine Ascents, Adventure Consultants, Madison Mountaineering, Summit Climb, and a couple of Nepali operators.
Looking at a series of weather modes, Wednesday morning may be the last summit opportunity this season. I anticipate the Icefall Docs to remove the ladders late next week, officially ending the season unless a few operators can convince them to stay.:
From 1922 to May 20, 2023, 193 members and 125 Sherpas died on Everest on both sides by all routes. The top causes of death for all 323 deaths include avalanches (78), falls (72), Acute Mountain Sickness-AMS (38), exhaustion (28), illness-non-AMS (27), and exposure (26).
This spring season is well above the historical average of four. The top years for deaths on both sides, by all routes, were 2014 (16), 1996 (15), 2015 (13), 2019 (11), 1982 (11), and 1988 (10). These are the deaths during this 2023 spring season:
1-3. On April 12: Tenjing Sherpa, Lakpa Sherpa, and Badure Sherpa, all working for Nepali operator Imagine Nepal, died when the upper section of the Icefall collapsed
4. May 1: American Jonathan Sugarman, 69, died at Camp 2 climbing with American operator International Mountain Guides (IMG)
5. May 16: Phurba Sherpa passed away near Yellow Band above Camp 3. He was part of the Nepal Army Mountain Clean-up campaign
6. May 17: Moldovan climber Victor Brinza died at the South Col with Nepali operator Himalayan Traverse Adventure
7. May 18: Chinese Xuebin Chen, 52, died near the South Summit with Nepali operator 8K Expeditions
8. May 20: Malaysian Ag Askandar Bin Ampuan Yaacub got above South Summit, then became ill and died. He was climbing with Nepali operator Pioneer Adventures
9. May 21: Australian Jason Bernard Kennison, 40, died near the Balcony. He was with Asian Trekking
10. May 18: There was another death, Indian Suzanne Leopoldina Jesus, 59, who intended to climb Everest but left EBC ill and died in Lukla, so not technically a climbing death.
Nepal RECORD Permit Update as of May 14, 2023
Government officials say they will not issue any more Everest climbing permits this season, stopping at a record of 478. The previous Everest record was 408 for the 2021 season of 408. Nepal issued climbing permits for 1,176 climbers from 80 countries for 27 peaks. Looking at Everest only, China has the largest representation with 97 members, followed by the US at 89, India–at 40, Canada-21, and Russia-20. There are 44 countries represented by three or fewer climbers.
These permits have generated $5.8M in royalties for the government. Almost all of this revenue stays in Kathmandu, with some in various personal pockets and none to the Sherpas, porters, or other high-altitude workers. The Nepal Ministry of Tourism posted these foreign permit tallies as of May 14, 2022:
- Everest: 478 on 47 teams
- Lhotse: 156 on 17 teams
- Ama Dablam: 79 on 8 teams
- Nuptse: 63 on 6 teams (only a few will attempt to summit, most will stop at C2)
- Makalu: 63 on 9 teams
- Annapurna I: 54 on 5 teams
- Kanchenjunga: 44 on 5 teams
- Himlung: 41 on 5 teams
- Dhaulagiri: 37 on 4 teams
- Manaslu: 15 on 4 teams
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Why this coverage?
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