Deaths Increases On Roof of the World-The Mystery Continues-Dr. H Korman-Deaths Increase on the Roof Of the World-The Mystery Continues. Dr. H Korman
There are 14 peaks over 8000 meters 26,247 feet, called the "dead zone" and all in the Himalayas, -Nepal, India, Pakistan and Tibet. Annapurna at 8091 meters is considered to be the most dangerous peak in the world, with a 40% kill rate, ( yes every 4 out of 10 climbers perish), and Nanga Parbat at 8125 meters killed 31 before she was successfully climbed.Both of these are dangerous, difficult assaults known for bad weather, long exposure to elements, technically difficult peaks. No studies have been done on any of the 14, except for Everest, a climb that has but 2 routes which is noteable recently due its claiming the lives of experienced well equipped climbers-two of whom were dear friends. `
During the past 86 years (1921-2006) records have been kept respecting climbing fatalities in the Himalayas,focused on Mt. Everest, where 1.3% of all mountaineers on Mt. Everest, on average perished on her slopes.(Non Sherpa climbers (as was the category then) accounted for 1.6% of all fatalities and Sherpa climbers accounted for 1.1 %).
Over the past 27 years, the death rate of climbers seems to be forever on the increase. One would think, with more experienced private as well as “public” commercial expeditions led by trained and experienced guides, state of the art tools and equipment, public emphasis on fitness and nutrition, the opportunity for instant interaction and education through various social media where climbers could gather and share information and expertise, and with strategic and sophisticated computerized means to plan an expedition, mountaineers who climbed over 8000 meters ( remember some parts of the European Alps, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Sierra Nevada are over this height) never mind Mt. Everest at 8850 meters, statistics indicate that the death rate is increasing not decreasing. We have recently lost several experienced climbers, from mysterious causes other than the expected "usual suspects".
The question is why?
Is it a numbers game, where so many more extreme sports minded individuals are climbing, than ever before, without the requisite training, conditioning, equipment or experience, so naturally the percentages of death are increasing? Is it a lack of even basic training, inability to perform under extreme circumstances or just lack of common sense?
Are the Mountains finally declaring war on the irreverent?
If better safety methods, knowledge of the terrain, available and comprehensive education, modernized tested equipment, latest technology and communication, medical awareness are not significantly reducing death by climbing, what more can be done?
Perhaps it’s as plain as the nose on our faces. Could it all boil down to “ attitude”. Have we taken the life and death risks associated with climbing for granted, as the sport continues to be labelled "extreme" or "macho" ( sorry ladies not to exclude you here as many woman today are amongst the most accomplished climbers) whose numbers are growing by" leaps and bounds"pun intended), according to sales in the industry, of everything from clothing to technology, yet we spend little time on risk factors? Mountaineering is a constant subject on the evening news, sells magazines and is romanticized by various “reality live” media, feature film, and the written word.
Logic would suggest that the risk of death is actually related to one or more of the following, traumatic or non-traumatic events-excessive fatigue, hypothermia loss of physical coordination, oedema, avalanche and falling ice, snow blindness, frostbite, loss of Oxygen, high altitude sickness ( in all its forms (AMS, HACE, HAPE)negligence or climber error, getting stranded or lost, . The Northern route from Tibet south, the longer more challenging less travelled NE Ridge, deaths were at 3.4% while on shorter Nepal route was 2.5 %.
Today we have several studies in place that do not answer the questions raised. Counter intuitively, most deaths occur on descent above 8000 meters. Not on pushing hard and driving to the summit, but on the way back to base camp.
Why is the question that most of those who perished on Everest were fit, in the prime of their lives, had families and friends and a future.