Once deemed insurmountable, Mount Everest is like a Delhi thoroughfare on some days.
A photo posted by mountain climber, Nirmal Purja on Facebook yesterday (May 23) is proof of a “traffic jam” on the world’s tallest mountain peak.
Another photo from last month showed similar traffic on the snow-covered peaks.
The photo shows a long queue of climbers on their way to the Hillary Step and then the summit. “I summited Everest at 5:30am and Lhotse 3:45pm despite of [sic] the heavy traffic (roughly 320 people),” wrote Purja.
Hillary Step, once a near-vertical 12 metre (40 feet) rock face below the summit of Mount Everest is now a gradual snowy slope. For long, it was considered the last and greatest challenge before reaching the summit. Meanwhile, Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world.
The picture posted by Purja may turn out to be the most iconic modern Everest photo since 2012.
Earlier, German mountaineer, Ralf Dujmovits had captured another “conga line” of climbers ascending the Lhotse Face.
The crowding on Everest is having crippling consequences.
On May 22, American climber Don Cash died on Everest hours after he reached the summit. Cash was one of about 200 who ascended the peak that day. Tragically, after reaching Mount Everest summit while climbing down, he encountered a traffic jam.
“When Cash and his Sherpa guides got to the Hillary Step they were forced to wait their turn for at least two hours,” wrote journalist Alan Arnette for Outside. Arnette also reported that a record number of people are climbing Everest in 2019.
A day later, a 49-year-old climber from Odisha in India died above the balcony area on Mt Everest, taking the reported death toll to 14 on different mountains above 8,000 metres in this climbing season.
The government of Nepal this year has handed out 378 permits, topping the previous record of 373 in 2017.
Climbers are assisted by Nepali guides. This could mean that about 750 climbers will be attempting to scale the mountain at the same time in May when the weather is expected to be favourable.
An intense jet stream near Everest’s 29,029-foot summit leaves climbers with limited weather windows. That explains the heavy rush of mountaineers especially in May to race to the top of the world.