U.S. climber describes deadly congestion on Everest

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 7:49 EDT
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Mount Everest is seen from The Kalapattar Plateau some 140kms (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu.  (AFP)
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An American adventurer who helped rescue four climbers fromMount Everest last weekend has told of how a crowded push for the summit and bad weather created deadly conditions for mountaineers.

Jon Kedrowski, 33, who was near the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak when four people died on Saturday, described how exhausted climbers battled high winds and congested trails in the mountain’s “death zone”.

“A two-hour wait at one of the choke-points near the summit left climbers caught in these 80mph (130kph) winds,” Kedrowski’s friend, Chris Tomer, wrote on the expedition’s blog post.

“Jon was ascending while other climbers from the previous day who had summited were descending through the choke-point after 18 hours or more on the mountain.

“Cut-off times were ignored and oxygen had run out. Jon (helped) to save four separate climbers.”

Those who did not survive have been named as German national Eberhard Schaaf, 61, South Korean Song Won-Bin, 44, 33-year-old Nepali-born Canadian Shriya Shah and Chinese climber Ha Wenyi, 55.

The deaths raised fears over chronic overcrowding, with tourism officials expecting another 200 people to head towards the summit from Friday.

Tomer, who is not on the expedition but is in regular touch with his climbing partner of 15 years, said Kedrowski described rescuing climbers who were “disoriented, frostbitten, sick, and totally exhausted”.

Tomer said the university professor, from Colorado, was “battling demons but has recovered physically” and would attempt the summit from base camp in a four-man team on a “speed ascent” on Friday and Saturday.

“The four of them are fast, fit and highly motivated. Their plan is to skip a couple of the higher camps and push directly to the summit quickly to hit the weather window,” Tomer said.

The climbing season runs from late March to the first week in June but this season’s first clear conditions for reaching the peak were on Friday, two weeks later than usual, leading to long queues near the summit.

On May 10, 1996, eight people died on what is believed to be the worst day on Everest, chronicled inJon Krakauer’s best-seller “Into Thin Air.”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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