So far this year, 12 people have been confirmed dead, and another five are missing, presumed dead, during climbing expeditions on Mt. Everest. Nepali officials are warning that this will likely be one of the deadliest years on record on the mountain, all due to a changing climate.
“Altogether this year we lost 17 people on the mountain this season,” Yuba Raj Khatiwada, the director of Nepal’s tourism department, told The Guardian. “The main cause is the changing in the weather. This season the weather conditions were not favourable, it was very variable. Climate change is having a big impact in the mountains.”
As June approaches, 2023 has already tied the last recorded highest death toll on the mountain. In 2014, several local sherpas killed in an avalanche, bringing the yearly total to 17. In 2019, when images of an overcrowded Everest went viral online, only 11 people died. On average, between five and ten people die on Everest annually, but the mountain has seen an increase in recent years.
The Nepal government has issued 479 climb permits so far this year, at £12,000 each. The country’s economy relies on such tourism, making them reluctant to implement restrictions on who is allowed to climb Mt. Everest.
Ang Norbu Sherpa, the president of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association, added that “too many” permits are being issued, which also is putting a strain on the mountain’s landscape.
“The climbing has pattern has changed, it used to be hardened climbers but now it is a lot of novice climbers who want to get to the summit of Everest,” Sherpa said.
Everest is now seen as a “tourist destination” where the wealthy can purchase permits, and even guided climbs up the mountain for £48,000, despite having little or no climbing experience. These people have also been leaving their trash on the mountain, sparking the Nepali government to introduce a £3,200 “garbage deposit”, which is only returned if tourists bring back 8kg of trash.