Christopher Kullish, an attorney and expert mountain climber from Boulder, Colorado, died after reaching the summit of Mt. Everest and he became the 11th climber to die in the ten-day span since the climbing season began.
Kullish, 62, became a member of the Seven Summit Club by reaching the top of Everest. The Seven Summit Club is a small group of alpine climbers who reached the summits of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
The annual climbing season for Mt. Everest is a very small window due to weather patterns. Climbers must spend weeks at different basecamps to acclimate before reaching the summit.
Over 300 people died trying to climb Mt. Everest since Sir Edmund Hilary reached the top in 1953.
In 2015, nineteen people died on Everest due to an earthquake avalanche.
Traffic Jam at 26K Feet
The crowds at Everest this season created a traffic jam trying to reach the summit. The longer wait at the Hilary Step has proven perilous because climbers did not have enough oxygen cannisters with them. Inexperienced climbers and mountain operators are the root of the problem according to expert climbers.
“Everest is primarily a very complicated puzzle,” expert climber David Morton told CNN. “When you have a lot of inexperienced operators as well as inexperienced climbers along with the Nepal government not putting some limitations on the numbers of people, you have a prime recipe for these sort of situations happening.”
When climbers pass 26,000 feet, they reach the Death Zone. Humans cannot handle the freezing temperatures and thin air and if the brain does not get enough oxygen, climbers will get stricken with altitude sickness. If they are not able to traverse to a lower elevation in an expeditious manner, altitude sickness is essentially a death sentence for them.
The mountain is littered with the frozen bodies of climbers who perished above the Death Zone. It is nearly impossible to retrieve corpses without risking lives.
Another American Perishes
Kullish was the second American climber to die on Mt. Everest this season. Don Cash, a climber from Utah, also perished on the mountain last week due to altitude sickness.
Cash, 55, wanted to join the seven summits club. Cash summited Mount Vinson Masif in Antarctica earlier this year.
According to John Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”, one in every four climbers died trying to reach the top of Everest before 1996. With the improvement of technology and equipment, the number of fatalities declined. An estimated 4,000 climbers officially reached the top of Everest since Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first reached the summit in 1953.
Krakauer cited the commercialization of Everest makes it even more dangerous than ever. In 1996, a blizzard killed eight climbers trying to descend from the summit including four of Krakauer’s teammates.