Budget ‘adventure tourism’ firms are being blamed for a rise in deaths of climbers on Mount Everest after 11 people perished scaling the mountain in 10 days.
Colorado lawyer Christopher John Kulish, 62, became the 11th fatality in less than a fortnight on Monday after he suffered a heart attack descending the peak.
He is believed to have fallen gravely ill after successfully reaching the 29,029-foot summit among a ‘small group and no crowds’.
Bottlenecks, tiredness and exhaustion, exacerbated by crowded routes and ‘traffic jams’ to and from the summit were previously believed to be behind the spike in deaths.
But this week tour operators pointed the finger at budget companies who ‘cut corners’ on safety precautions.
Canadian filmmaker Elia Sakaily posted this picture he took while he climbed Mount Everest on Thursday – a dead body can be seen still tethered dangling from the mountain. Budget ‘adventure tourism’ firms are being blamed for a rise in deaths of climbers on the peak
It costs as much as $100,000 (£78,900) to climb the world’s tallest mountain.
But some local firms offer the experience for only a quarter of that, saving money on not providing the right equipment and navigation tools or enough oxygen.
Colorado lawyer Christopher John Kulish, 62, became the 11th fatality in less than than a fortnight on Monday after he suffered a heart attack descending the peak
American mountaineer Garrett Madison, who specialises in Everest trips, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The biggest factor is that many inexperienced climbers are booking with low budget, local operators, who are not providing adequate support such as guide services, oxygen, medicines and leadership to ensure the climbers can ascend and descend safely.’
Tourism contributes a huge amount to Nepal’s economy and is vital in maintaining stability after political instability in recent years and the 2015 earthquake.
But verified climb tour operators have called on the government to crack down on their low-cost counterparts.
Temba Thseri Sherpa, who works on summits for travel operator Asia Voyage, told the paper: ‘The largest number of climbers dying this season is because they have run out of oxygen… there are too many commercial expeditions where you pay less but get less of a service and less experienced guides.’
A lack of climbing experienced is also being attributed to the spike in deaths, although some local sources dispute this, saying the majority go through gruelling training.
The Nepalese government has indicated it may reduce the number of permits it gives to people wanting to climb the mountain next year.
Massive line: In this picture taken on Sunday May 22, hundreds of mountain climbers line up to stand at the summit of Mount Everest. Many teams waited for hours to reach the summit, risking frostbites and altitude sickness
Mr Kulish, the 11th fatality on Everest in 10 days, died suddenly at South Col on the normal Southeast Ridge route on Monday.
His family said in a touching statement: ‘We are heartbroken by the news. Chris, who turned 62 in April, went up with a very small group in nearly ideal weather after the crowds of last week had cleared Everest.
‘He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth. At that instant, he became a member of the ‘7Summit Club’ having scaled the highest peak on each continent.’
The family continued in their statement to CBS: ‘An attorney in his ‘day job’ – he was an inveterate climber of peaks in Colorado, the West and the world over.
‘He passed away doing what he loved, after returning to the next camp below the peak.
‘He leaves his mother, Betty (‘Timmie’) Kulish, a younger sister, Claudia, and a younger brother, Mark.’
Irishmen Seamus Lawless 39 (left) and Kevin Hynes, 56, (right) also died descending the peak
Utah-resident Donald Lynn Cash, 55, (left) collapsed after reaching the summit of Everest. British climber Robn Haynes Fisher (right), also died last week
Mr Kulish was the second American to die in the last 10 days after reaching the peak and celebrating his 62nd birthday on the mountain.
Mountaineering organization Climbing The Seven Summits released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, giving a greater insight into his cause of death.
It said: ‘Chris passed away in his tent suddenly on the afternoon of 27th May 2019 at the South Col after successfully reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, thus completing his long-held goal of the ‘Seven Summits’ – the highest peak on each continent.
‘Chris climbed strongly throughout summit day in a small team with no crowds and in good weather. He was in good spirits throughout the climb and following his arrival back at the South Col.
‘Initial assessment suggest the cause of death was cardiac arrest however this is unconfirmed. Emergency first aid and rescue procedure were administered at the scene but failed to revive him.
The route up the mountain includes several large obstacles and a huge moving glacier near to base camp as shown in the map above
‘Chris was a quintessential lifelong climber who had been mountaineering since he was a teenager. We are proud to have had him as part of our team and are deeply saddened and shocked by his passing.’
Irish professor Seamus Lawless, Donalyd Lynn Cash, 55, from Utah, Irishman Kevin Hynes, 56, and Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, are the others who died on Everest this week.
Last week Four Indians, one Austrian and one Nepalese person also died going up or down the peak.
News of Mr Kulish’s death on Monday came hours after a Canadian film maker described stepping over a dead body to get to the peak during a hike on May 23.
Elia Saikaly, from Ottawa, said he tried to warn other climbers to head off the world’s tallest peak, people who later ended up dead.
The filmmaker said: ‘Here we all were, chasing a dream and beneath our very feet there was a lifeless soul. Is this what Everest has become?’
The 11 climbers who have died on Everest in the past nine days
May 16: Irish professor Séamus Lawless went missing on May 16 after reportedly falling.
The search operation has since been called off and he is presumed dead.
May 22: Dedicated amateur Donald Lynn Cash, 55, from Sandy, Utah, collapsed and died
May 24: Irishman Kevin Hynes, 56, passed away on the northern Tibet part of the mountain.
The father-of-two died in his tent at 23,000ft on the descent after turning back before reaching the top.
May 25: Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, collapsed and died only 150m from the peak.
May 27: American patent lawyer Christopher John Kulish, 61, dies after descending
Last week: Four Indians, one Austrian and one person from Nepal died on Everest.