Indian climber Anjali Kulkarni, 55, died on her way back from climbing to the summit of Mount Everest on Wednesday, her son Shantanu Kulkarni told. She had become stuck in the “traffic jam” above camp four, which, at 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), is the final camp before the summit. Climber Nirmal Purja posted a picture on Instagram of the heavy human traffic on the mountain Wednesday, showing a dense trail of climbers huddling on an exposed ridge to the summit. He added that there were roughly 320 people in the queue to the top of the mountain. Danduraj Ghimire, director general of Nepal’s Tourism Department, rejected suggestions that the jam of climbers contributed to the deaths, calling such claims “baseless.”
The summit of Mount Everest has an elevation of 8,848 meters (29,029 feet). At that level, each breath contains only one-third of the oxygen found at sea level. The human body is also rapidly deteriorating at that altitude, meaning most people can spend only a matter of minutes at the top,without extra oxygen supplies, before it becomes intolerable.
“The weather has not been very great this climbing season, so when there is a small window when the weather clears up, climbers make the move,” Ghimire said. “On May 22, after several days of bad weather, there was a small window of clear weather, when more than 200 mountaineers ascended Everest. The main cause of deaths on Everest has been high altitude sickness which is what happened with most of the climbers who lost their lives this season as well.”
Reportedly out of the two Indians who died, one was Kalpana Das, 52, who reached the summit but died while descending, as a huge number of climbers queued near the top of Mount Everest. Another 27-year-old man died because of exhaustion as he was stuck in the traffic for more than 12 hours.