Everest by the Numbers: 2024 Edition

Everest Summits 1953-2023.001

Welcome to Everest 2024. The season begins soon, and I’ve already posted several Everest 2024 big-picture updates for this season:

2024 will be my 22nd season of all things Everest: 16 times providing coverage, another four seasons of actually climbing on Everest, and two years attempting Lhotse.

summited Everest on May 21, 2011, and have climbed it three other times (all from Nepal) – 20022003, and 2008, each time reaching just below the Balcony around 27,500′ (8400 meters) before health, weather or my judgment caused me to turn back. I attempted Lhotse in 2015 and 2016. When not climbing, I cover the Everest season from my home in Colorado as I did in 200420052006200720092010, 2012201320142015, 2016, 201720182019, 2021, 2022, 2023 and now the 2024 season.

For those who closely follow Everest, the official release of the summit numbers is always a milestone. The Himalayan Database (HDB) updated the latest summit statistics in December 2024. I’ve been digging into the stats and found some interesting trends and trivia.Ms-Elizabeth-Hawley-working

The Himalayan Database

The HDB, now a free download from their site, contains the climbing records for almost all Nepal and Tibetan Himalayan peaks from 1905 to the present day. However, they recently changed their model, as Richard Salisbury and Billi Bierling recently told me:

HDB QRWith the ever-increasing number of people attempting the commercial normal routes on the eight 8,000m peaks in Nepal, it is no longer possible for the team to interview every single climber or expedition leader. For this reason, we have decided that – exactly 60 years after Miss Elizabeth Hawley met her first team – to concentrate on new and interesting routes on the 8,000ers and other commercial peaks as well as new and technically challenging mountains that are climbed in Alpine style in the Nepal Himalaya. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, Nepal, will continue to provide us with the numbers of climbers who attempt commercial mountains, which we will enter into the Himalayan Database. However, we are happy to meet everyone who contacts us and would like to tell us about their expedition.We also welcome any hints and corrections to our data as the truth deserves to be told, just like Miss Elizabeth Hawley emphasized in her career.

You can always check in and register to tell us about your climb online. For further information, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/registerwu or scan the QR code above.

The legendary Ms. Elizabeth Hawley passed away in 2018 at age 94. See this fantastic video interview of her, this interview with Richard, and my podcast with Billi.

Here are a few words on terminology before we get into this. The HDB uses the term ‘hired’ for anyone paid to support an expedition. So ‘hired’ includes Sherpas, Tibetans, porters, and guides. In addition, several ethnicities support the Everest ecosystem, including Tamang, Magars, Rai, and others. And on the north, there are Chinese and Tibetan workers. Some articles refer to these as mountain workers or high-altitude workers.

The term “member” usually refers to someone paying a guide to help them with their climb. I use the words members and foreigners and Westerners interchangeably with members, acknowledging that climbers from S. Korea, for example, do not consider themselves “Westerners.”

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The Big Picture

I suspect 2024 will be another busy year. First, there is the insatiable lure of Everest, and, as is the standard since 2013, droves of inexperienced climbers drawn in by “no-experienced required” low-cost operators. However, 2024 will be different, with the north side open to foreigners and the last year before Nepal raises their permit price by 36% to $15,000.

I expect 800 total summits from both sides this spring, comprising at least 150 on the Tibet total (members plus hired) and well over 650 on the Nepal side. Even with these numbers, the totals will still lag the pre-pandemic record set in 2019 of 877 total summits, comprising 661 from Nepal and 216 from Tibet. Last year, 2023, saw 655 total summits from Nepal and thirteen on Tibet. Let’s break all of this down and see what our climbers can expect.

The headlines for 2024 include that Everest summits are growing and death rates are reducing from the record of eighteen in 2023. As I summarized in “How Much Does it Cost to Climb Mt. Everest-2024 edition“ with this bottom line:

We’ll see what 2024 brings, but history suggests it will be a big year, especially with the North open and prices increasing. The bottom line is that Nepal will be more crowded than ever, so guides will need to coordinate schedules. We can expect six to eight deaths on the Nepal side and one on the Tibet side. 

Stepping back to review the overall numbers, 6,664 different people have summited Everest for 11,996 summits, and 327 people have died attempting Everest on all routes. Nepal remains the more popular and deadly side. Sherpas now dominate with a majority of summits.

Deaths from 1922 to 2023

NEPAL TIBET TOTAL
Members 3,919 1,980 5,899 49%
Hired 4,431 1,666 6,097 51%
TOTAL Summits 8,350 3,646 11,996
69% 31%
Member Deaths 114 86 200 61%
Hired Deaths 103 24 127 39%
TOTAL Deaths 217 110 327 2.7%
 64%  36%
Death Rate 1.14 1.08 1.12

 

 

 

 

Note that two events on the Nepal side represented 21% of the total hired deaths. There were 17 deaths in 2014 when a serac let loose onto the Khumbu Icefall, and 10 more died in 2015 when an earthquake created an avalanche that hit Everest Base Camp.


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2023 Recap – Records Deaths and Brutal Cold

The 2023 Everest spring season ended with some records to take pride in and others to be avoided. If there were one word to summarize the season, it would be chaotic or perhaps deadly. This spring was the deadliest season in Everest’s history. It was also brutally cold.

Nepal issued a record 478 climbing permits to foreigners. Add in one and a half Sherpa supporting each foreigner; over 1,200 people pursued the summit last spring. Fears were rampant of a 2019 repeat with long lines and deaths. The lines never developed, thanks in part to colder weather that sent a higher number of climbers home in mid-season, many with a persistent virus. However, the deaths did develop, but not because of the record permits or climate change.

There were around 667 summits on the Nepal side and 16 from Tibet, which was still closed to foreigners. More Sherpas, 378, summited than clients, 277, according to the Himalayan Database. Only 55% of the members who went above Base Camp, 483, summited, 277. There was an all-time Everest high of 18 deaths – 6 Sherpas and 12 clients. In my estimation, 11 deaths were preventable.

What stole the headlines were the daily reports of rescues, frostbite, missing climbers, and deaths. The root cause of the chaos remains elusive and, in some cases, covered up. Some blame the record permit numbers, inexperienced clients, and low-cost operators. However, Nepal government officials cited climate change. Blaming climate change is a red herring to abdicate responsibility by operators and authorities. Again, in my estimation, 11 of the 18 deaths were preventable.

Continue reading about Everest 2023

By the Numbers

More Summits, More Deaths

Everest has an immutable attraction that is oddly perverse. When there is a record number of deaths, the next season has more climbers than the previous deadly one. For example:

  • 2006: 11 deaths, 494 summits
  • 2007: 7 deaths, 634 summits
  • 2012: 10 deaths, 581 summits
  • 2013: 8 deaths, 684 summits
  • 2014*: 16 deaths, 134 summits 
  • 2016: 5 deaths, 679 summits
  • 2023: 18 deaths, 668 summits
  • 2024: ? Deaths, ? summits

* 2014 season ended early when 16 Sherpas died in Icefall. 2015 closed because of the earthquake.

We’ll see what 2024 brings, but history suggests it will be a big year, especially with the North open and prices increasing. The bottom line is that it is more crowded than ever, so guides will need to coordinate schedules more tightly than ever.

Since 1953, there have been 11,996 summits of Everest through January 2024, on all routes, by 6,664 different people. Climbing from the Nepal side is the most popular side and has a higher death total and death rate with 8,350 summits with 217 deaths through January 2024 or 2.6%, a rate of 1.14. The Tibet side has seen 3,646 summits with 110 deaths through January 2024 or 3.0%, a rate of 1.08.

For those not using supplemental oxygen from Nepal, 130 died, or 60% of the total deaths or a rate of 1.01% for those making a summit attempt. On the Tibet side, for those not using supplemental oxygen, 48 died, or 44% of the total deaths or a rate of 0.75% for those making a summit attempt. Tibet-side climbers tend to be more experienced, thus accounting for fewer deaths.

Note that the death rates are for all hired support and members, including those at base camp, not just those who summited.

 

 

The last time Everest saw no summits on either side was in 1974.

Tibet or Nepal Side?

Before 2008, Tibet was gaining in popularity. In 2000, Nepal had 62% of the total climbing traffic compared to Tibet’s 32%. However, by 2007, the gap had closed, with Nepal at 60% and Tibet at 40%. Then came 2008, when the Chinese effectively closed Everest to take the Olympic torch to the summit. This event caused many in the climbing community to not risk their money with the Chinese. Many operators moved to the Nepal side, some for good. China’s closure of Everest to foreigners from 2020 through 2023, citing COVID, exacerbated this trend.

Russell Brice, a mainstay on the north from 1994 to 2007, putting 219 people on the summit, including 53 in 2007, switched to the south after the 2008 closure on the north, contributing to the stall on that side. Brice sold his company, Himalayan Experience, a few years ago. The comeback for Tibet has been slow but steady but may never reach the pre-2008 days because China puts a member cap of 300 per season while Nepal continues to have no limit.

Natural Disasters and Rising Fees

The avalanche and ensuing Sherpa strike of 2014 and the 2015 earthquake sent some people back to the Chinese side; however, it appears these events had little impact on climbing from either side and were viewed as a natural disaster not unique to either side.

One wildcard that may impact the growth on the Chinese side is the permit fee. An Everest climbing permit from the Chinese (Northside) is now between $15,800 and $18,000 per person for a team permit of 4 or more. Nepal will raise its permit fee from $11,000 to $15,000 in 2025, so we will see if China raises theirs more. The days of climbing Everest for a few thousand dollars are over.

Deaths Ticking Back Up

Overall, 317 people, 217 members, and 110 hired (Sherpas) died on Everest from 1921 to 2023. An average of 4 people have died each year since the first attempt in 1922. From 2010 to 2023, deaths doubled to an average of 8 annually. The 31 total Sherpa deaths in 2014 from the serac release onto the Icefall and the 2015 earthquake drove up the average death rate, as did the record 2023 deaths of 18. All of these deaths were on the Nepal side of the mountain.

Digging deeper into each period, the death rate from 1921 to 1999 was 1.80, with 170 people dying, 100 members, and 70 hired. More members died than hired due to pioneering new routes and the Sherpas being used primarily for load carrying. 

When commercialization grew in the early 2000s, the death rate drastically declined from 1.80 to 0.80. There were fewer new routes, and most of the traffic took place on the Southeast or Northeast Ridges led by Western Guide companies like Adventure Consultants, Jagged Globe, or International Mountain Guides, and today by Nepali companies like Asian Trekking, 8K Expeditions and Seven Summits Treks. From 2000 to 2023, 157 people died, a death rate of 0.80, but more members, 100, still died more than Sherpas, 57. 

 

The reduction in overall deaths is primarily because of significantly higher Sherpa support ratios, improved supplemental oxygen at higher flow rates (up to 8 lpm), improved gear, weather forecasting, and more people climbing with commercial operations.

This good news of fewer deaths (1921-199:170 compared to 2000-2023:157) came as the total number of people climbing Everest took off. The number of people above Base Camp almost doubled in the past 23 years – 19,610  (9,353 members with 10,257 support) compared to the previous 80 years. From 1921 to 1999 – 10,916 (5,773 members with 5,143 support) people went above BC.

However, death statistics show that on both sides, on all routes, descending from the summit is significantly more deadly for members, with 55 deaths descending, compared to 15 ascending on the Nepal side and 48 descending with 11 ascending on the Tibet side.

Of the 8000-meter peaks, Everest has the highest absolute number of deaths (member and hired) at 327 but ranks near the bottom with a death rate of 1.11. Annapurna is the most deadly 8000er, with one death for about every fifteen summits (73:476) or a 3.76 death rate. Cho Oyu is the safest, with 4,044 summits and 52 deaths or a death rate of 0.40, with Lhotse next at 0.38. Of note, 79 Everest member climbers, out of 200 members, died descending from the summit, or 39%. K2’s death rate has fallen dramatically from the historic 1:4 to around 1:8, primarily because of more commercial expeditions with huge Sherpa support ratios.

However, it’s still critical to select your guide as I cover in Everest 2019: Season Summary The Year Everest Broke, eight of the 11 deaths were climbing with operators charging under the median price.

While the Nepal side’s safety reputation eroded after the tragic 2014, 2015 and 2023 deaths, the Tibet side has also had multiple deaths. In 2004 and 2006, six and eight people died, respectively. The last year when there was commercial climbing, there were no deaths on the Tibet side, which was 2016, and on the Nepal side, 2010. 1981 was the last time Everest saw no deaths on either side.

Note that the HDB calculates the death rate by taking the number of people above base camp who died, not just those who summited.

Standard-98% vs. Non-Standard Routes-2%

An interesting bit of trivia is that through January 2024, of the 11,996 summits, only 249 (185 members and 64 hired) took a “non-standard” route, not the Southeast Ridge or Northeast Ridge. There were 84 (54 members and 30 hired) deaths on these climbs–34% of the total deaths, which partly explains why the standard routes are most popular with commercial operators–lower risks. The countries with the most summits on the non-standard routes are Nepal (67), Japan (26), the USA (27), S. Korea (23), the USSR (23), and Russia (16.)

As this chart shows, climbing the standard routes accounts for 73% of the deaths, with the Southeast Ridge dominating all deaths at 175 or 52%. This number is heavily driven by the 2023 record of eighteen deaths and the 2014 ice serac release off the West Shoulder of Everest onto the Khumbu Icefall, taking 17 lives. Also, 14 people died at Basecamp in 2015 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused an avalanche off the Pumori-Lintgren ridgeline. Whether these were one-time events or ongoing concerns has yet to be determined. Therefore, climbers must make their own decisions as to the safer standard route.

Here is the summary update with 2023 statistics:

Reason

Northeast Ridge

Southeast Ridge

Other Routes South

Other Routes North

total

Avalanche

7

40

15

16

78

Fall

18

31

18

8

75

AMS

12

29

0

5

46

Exposure/Frostbite

10

6

6

4

26

Illness (non-AMS)

5

18

2

1

26

Exhaustion

12

15

0

1

28

Icefall Collapse

0

16

3

0

19

Crevasse

0

10

0

0

10

Disappearance

4

5

0

3

18

other/unknown

3

2

1

1

7

Falling Rock/Ice

0

3

0

0

3

Total

71

175

45

39

336

% of Total

21%

52%

13%

12%

The last team to complete a new route was a Korean team on the Southwest Face in 2009. In 2019, Cory Richards and Esteban “Topo” Mena made a valiant attempt to send a 6,551-foot direct line in a couloir, a narrow rock gully, on the Northeast face of Everest. The gully joins a high ridge and continues to a steep face and onto the summit. The route began just above Advanced Base Camp at 21,325 feet on the Tibet side of Everest. Eventually, they turned back at around 7,600 meters due to “conditions we encountered coupled with our chosen tactics compounded by exertion.” after spending 40 hours on the wall with one open bivvy.

Oxygen and Summits and Deaths

It is rare to summit Everest without using supplemental oxygen; only 221 people have ever done so. Digging deep into the data reveals that of the 327 deaths, 178 were not using O’s when they perished, but this is a bit misleading because, for many of the deaths, 105 were doing route preparation, primarily by Sherpas. Most would not have used Os because they were low on the mountain. A case in point was the 2014 ice serac release and the 2015 earthquake that killed 31 people, and they were below Camp 1 and not using oxygen.

Looking at climbing in modern times, i.e., from 2000 to 2023, we can see that 88 members (not Sherpas) summited without supplemental oxygen, and 28 died, or 32%. This rate compares with the 4,832 members who summited with Os, and 60 died or 1.2%. In other words, you are 26 times more likely to die if you don’t use supplemental oxygen.

Back in 2018, I reached out to the HDB’s Richard Salisbury to help analyze the impact of supplemental oxygen both in terms of summits and deaths. He ran a few reports for success rates with and without supplemental oxygen for members above base camp on the standard commercial routes. The results were what we would expect – those climbing on O’s had fewer deaths and better summit results. This chart shows that climbers who use supplemental oxygen have almost twice the summit success as those who shun O’s.Everest Summits Bar Chart 1953-2021 

 

This chart shows that climbers who do not use supplemental oxygen have almost three times the death rate than those who shun O’s, but the numbers are pretty low, with only 11 total members dying on their summit bid. 
Looking at the north side and why climbers turn back on their summit bid above High Camp, bad weather is the primary reason for both those who use and don’t use O’s. But for those who don’t use O’s, frostbite and cold rank as the second-highest reason, while those who are using Os claim exhaustion as the second most common reason to turn back.

The primary benefit of using supplemental oxygen is warmth. When exposed to extreme cold, the body will divert blood flow to the brain and organs and sacrifice extremities. Os is a safety net for hands and feet.

The north side of Everest is notoriously colder and windier than the south. These conditions may explain why more climbers not using O’s turned back – a sign of wanting to live! Interestingly, 2017 was an exception, with just the opposite characteristics on the south side when high winds pummeled climbers, stopping several no-Os’ attempts.


Looking at the south side and why climbers turn back on their summit bid above High Camp, lousy weather again is the primary reason for both those who use and don’t use O’s. But for those who don’t use O’s, frostbite and cold, along with exhaustion, rank as the second-highest reason to turn back.

Using supplemental oxygen is always controversial, bringing up ethics and style. I know for some people, this is a red hot subject. However, in 2024, most operators will provide 2, 3, 4, or even 8 liters per minute to their clients at some points during the expedition. One operator is even offering a climb to Camp 2, no summit, with supplemental oxygen and a personal Sherpa!

Sherpa Support and Summits

Over the last 15 years, Everest has seen explosive growth in the number of Sherpas summiting. Commercial operators used to have a ratio of 1 Sherpa to 5 members, but today, 2 Sherpas for each member is common. This extra support need is driven by more inexperienced members, offloading more gear to Sherpas, higher oxygen flow rate, thus more bottles required, and high-end guides who market that there will always be a Sherpa climbing by your side.

In 1992, when commercialization began on the south side, 22 Sherpa and 65 members summited or a ratio of 0.34 members to hired. In 2010, 196 Sherpas with 175 members summited or 1.12. Looking at the Tibet side, it is even more dramatic. In 2000, the ratio was 17:38 or 0.45 hired to members compared to 106:110 or 1.04 in 2019 (the last full year on the Tibet side).

In 2023, on the Nepal side, it was a whopping 1.36. In other words, for every member who summited, 1.36 Sherpas did as well. In 2022, it was a staggering 1:1.62, with 415 Sherpas summiting with 256 clients on the Nepal side. Today, more Sherpas and Tibetans have summited Everest than paying clients, 5,721 vs. 5,620. As this chart shows, the support ratio trend is increasing on the Nepal side.