Mount Everest summit: Coronavirus pandemic, climate change and desperate climbers wreak havoc on ultimate climbing dream
Calls are growing for the way Mt Everest is conquered and controlled to be strongly reconsidered. Photo / Getty Images It's been a rocky few years for Mount Everest thanks to climate change, coronavirus and desperate climbers. Climbing to the highest point on earth has been the ultimate dream for many hikers, since Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. But calls are growing for the way Mount Everest is conquered and controlled to be strongly reconsidered. More than 700 foreign climbers rushed back to Nepal's mountains in the nation's spring season, with a record 408 permits issued for Everest. Nepal's government also broke its permit record in 2019, when it issued 381. The spike in permits was due to Everest's 2020 season being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the popular climbing season coincided with a new wave of Covid-19 infections, with several reports of the illness at the Himalayan base camps earlier this year. A number of climbers also died trying to summit Mount Everest this year. On May 17, two climbers lost their lives on Mount Everest, the first fatalities of the 2021 season. Swiss climber Abdul Waraich, 40, died near the summit after reaching the top and suffering exhaustion. "We sent two additional sherpas with oxygen and foods, unfortunately sherpas couldn't save him," Chhang Dawa Sherpa, from Seven Summit Treks, said at the time. American Puwei Liu, 55, reached the Hillary Step but was helped back down after he suffered snow blindness and exhaustion. He was able to reach Camp 4, "before he suddenly passed away", Chhang Dawa Sherpa said. On average around five climbers die every year on the world's highest peak. But in recent seasons, Everest has seen a surge in the number of climbers, leading to overcrowding that has been blamed for multiple deaths. Eleven people died climbing the world's highest peak in 2019, with four deaths blamed on overcrowding. On one day, 354 people were lined up to reach the top from Nepal's southern side and Tibet's northern approach. To ease the crowding Nepal's tourism ministry announced rules capping the number of people who can summit the mountain per window of suitable weather. Expedition organisers were also told to send teams up the peak strictly in accordance with permit numbers or limit the number of climbers going up at one time. Quarantine rules were eased this year to attract more climbers, despite the difficulties of treating them if they contract the virus. Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks and the foreign climbers that flock to its mountains are a major source of national revenue. A city of tents hosting more than 1000 people foreign climbers and support staff was built up at the foot of Everest in May and the hotels along the trek are back in business. However, the warmer weather that ushers in safer conditions for scaling Nepal's dangerous, snow-capped peaks also coincided with a deadly second wave of Covid-19 infections. During Everest's spring season more than 30 sick climbers were evacuated from base camp, although only three were confirmed as having had coronavirus. The usual communal parties were also absent this year at base camps after expedition groups were asked to keep to themselves and avoid socialising with others. Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes so any coronavirus outbreak among climbing groups could pose severe health risks. Pollution continues to be a huge issue for Everest. Nepal has long struggled with the sheer amount of waste generated from each climbing season and the thousands of people that are involved. And a team of researchers in April of this year made another worrying discovery when they found the highly-toxic PFAS chemicals near the summit. "Everest is treasured very highly as a unique monument for the globe," Rainer Lohmann, a PFAS researcher from the University of Rhode Island told the Wall Street Journal. "It's kind of sad to see very high concentrations at some places on the mountain. We say, 'Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints,' but we leave chemicals." It's been 22 years since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.