10th death in 2 months reported on Mount Everest amid long wait times to descend

Multiple deaths have been reported this week alone.

May 25, 2019, 6:31 PM

A British man has died on Mount Everest, marking the tenth death in two months as a record number of mountaineers rush to conquer the world's highest summit during an unusually brief window of good climbing weather.

A 41-year-old British climber, Robin Haynes Fisher, reached Everest's peak at 8:30 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, and collapsed and died shortly after, at about 150 meters below the summit, according to Murari Sharma, Managing Director at Everest Pariwar Treks. The Himalayan Times reported that Jangbu Sherpa, a guide with the same expedition, also fell ill and was brought to a camp at lower altitude.

The deaths come amid reports of massive crowding on the mountain, especially around the Hillary Step, where climbers have to go single-file. On Wednesday, there were reports of two and three hour delays in that area.

Peak climbing season for Everest is April and May, and all of the 10 deaths have occurred within that two-month span.

“You’ve got people who’ve got lifelong dreams, whether they’re 28 or 58, to climb Mount Everest. And they get there, they achieve their dream and they perish doing something that was supposed to be one of the most meaningful events of their life," said Alan Arnette, a mountaineering expert who runs a Mount Everest blog.

PHOTO: This handout photo taken on May 22, 2019 and released by climber Nirmal Purja's Project Possible expedition shows heavy traffic of mountain climbers lining up to stand at the summit of Mount Everest.
This handout photo taken on May 22, 2019 and released by climber Nirmal Purja's Project Possible expedition shows heavy traffic of mountain climbers lining up to stand at the summit of Mount Everest. Many teams had to line up for hours on May 22 to reach the summit, risking frostbites and altitude sickness, as a rush of climbers marked one of the busiest days on the world's highest mountain.
Project Possible/AFP/Getty Images

2019 has been the deadliest year for Everest climbers since 2012, another year that saw ten deaths, and Arnette said a collision of factors were to blame.

Nepal issued a high number of permits to climb the mountain this year -- 367 to foreigners and 14 to Nepalese climbers, according to a government liaison officer at base camp -- and there is at least that number of local support staff joining the trek. But due to unpredictable weather conditions, there were only five days when conditions were safe enough to summit, according to Arnette, who tracks Everest activity.

Last year, according to Arnette, there were 11 consecutive days of low winds.

"The jet stream has not moved off of the summit the way that it traditionally does during May," he said, adding that that creates severe wind conditions and cold that make it unsafe to stand on the summit. "It’s just too dangerous for frostbite or literally getting blown off the mountain."

This has meant that scores of mountaineers, who wait for favorable weather conditions, are reaching the summit at around the same time, creating bottlenecks. Around the Hillary Step, where climbers have to go single-file early in their descent from the summit, there were reports of two-to three-hour delays on Wednesday.

Some climbers have spent as long as 15 to 20 hours above the 8,000 meters, due to a combination of exhaustion and wait times, while the average time should be closer to 10 to 12 hours, Arnette said.

The longer a person stays at high altitude, the higher their risk is for altitude sickness, which happens when the body struggles to adapt to lower air pressure and oxygen levels. The recommended response is for a person to move to a lower-elevation area.

The number of companies offering Everest climbs has ballooned in recent years, and some companies now charge as little as half of the $65,000 price-tag that more established trekking companies charge. This has encouraged more, less experienced climbers to attempt Everest, according to Arnette, who has advocated for more rigorous standards for awarding permits.

"You have to qualify to run the Boston or the New York marathons, or to participate in the Iron Man in Hawaii," he said. "You don’t have to qualify to climb the highest mountain in the world. And that’s not right."

Among the deaths reported this week was Donald Lynn Cash, a 55-year-old Utah resident who conquered the Seven Summits -- the tallest mountains on each continent -- and died shortly after reaching the Everest peak.

Shortly after reaching the summit on Wednesday, he fainted due to high altitude sickness, guide company Pioneer Adventure wrote on its website.

"This is a total blast," Cash wrote from the mountain in April in a post on Instagram. "I'm truly blessed to just be here on this adventure with great new friends!!"

ABC News' Alexandra Faul and Alexandra Svokos contributed to this report.

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