Right now a couple hundred or so climbers are attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest during a brief window of decent weather. Last weekend many climbers either reached the summit or turned around because of traffic jams at crucial points and because the weather deteriorated. Ten climbers also died on both the South Col route as well as on the Northeast Ridge.
How many climbers have died on Mount Everest? And how many bodies are still up there in the thin air? After last weekend's tragedy, there are about 235 fatalities on the mountain and over 200 of them are still resting on the mountain. The British Medical Journal published a study in 2006 which found that there is one death for every 10 successful ascents on Everest.
Most of the corpses lie in the "Death Zone," the upper section of the mountain above 26,000 feet where the lack of oxygen (about one-third the oxygen at sea level), low atmospheric pressure, and severe and sudden weather conditions conspire to kill climbers with maladies like altitude sickness and hypothermia. Many of the dead climbers repose alongside the major climbing routes, where hundreds of other climbers trudge past them on the way to the summit. Some bodies are even landmarks.
Here's a link to a story Reclaiming the Dead on Mount Everest on Canadian Broadcasting Company's (CBC) website. The article is an interview with Alan Arnette, a mountaineer from Fort Collins, Colorado who previously climbed it in May 2011 as well as in 2002, 2003, and 2008. Alan describes the difficulties and high cost involved in removing corpses from high on the mountain for either burial or cremation below or transport back to the climber's home country.
It seems like some sort of solution needs to be found for proper burial on Mount Everest. It's macabre, shocking, and disrespectful to have that many climbers in an open graveyard on the sacred mountain Chomolangma.
Read more about Mount Everest:
Fast Facts About Mount Everest
Four Everest Climbers Die in High Winds
Mount Everest Timeline: 1848 to World War II
Everest Update 2012: Dangerous Conditions, Cancelled Trips, Global Warming, and Whiskey
Photograph above: The summit pyramid of Mt. Everest is an open graveyard with a couple hundred dead climbers. Photograph © GaryMccue/Getty Images