Latest death marks 10th reported on Mount Everest, amid long wait times to descend

Posted at 1:48 PM, May 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-25 13:48:24-04

A British man has died on Mount Everest, marking the tenth death in two months as mountaineers eager to take advantage of a brief window of good climbing weather encounter bottlenecks and long waits along the descending route from the world's highest summit.

British media identified the man as Robin Haynes Fisher, 41, and said that he fainted in the so-called “death zone” of the 29,000-foot mountain where oxygen levels can be low.

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.

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. This is a record number, according to Everest expert Alan Arnette.

In addition, this season's weather has forced large crowds up at once. Climbers wait for favorable weather forecasts to make summit attempts, and this year, there have only been two windows with five summit days so far, as Arnette detailed on his site.

Typically, there are seven to 12 favorable days in a climbing season, according to Arnette.

Because of this, many climbers are going up to make their attempts all at once, creating bottlenecks.

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.

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 Mount Everest 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!!"