The Survival Rate of People Encountering Problems on Mount Everest
Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth, standing mighty at a height of 29,029 feet, has lured adventure enthusiasts from across the world. However, alongside the glory and exhilaration it promises, Everest brings with it extreme challenges and risks. Statistics reveal that the survival rates of trekkers who encounter problems on Mount Everest can vary greatly depending on a range of factors.
The Lethal Allure of Everest
Mount Everest has a substantial fatality-to-summit ratio. Since 1921, Everest has been the ground for over 300 confirmed deaths. However, it must be noted that the death toll has been relatively lower in the recent years, due to advancements in technology, weather prediction capabilities, and climber preparation.
Mountaineers face numerous life-threatening challenges on Everest. These include severe weather conditions, the lack of oxygen at high altitudes leading to hypoxia and altitude sickness, treacherous terrains leading to falls and crevasse accidents, and frostbite due to sub-zero temperatures.
The Deciding Factors
The survival rates of trekkers who face difficulties on Everest heavily depend upon the kind of problem encountered, its severity, the response time to the crisis, the mountaineer’s health and fitness, level of experience, and the assistance available.
Kind and Severity of the Problem
Severe health issues such as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) are common on Everest due to the low oxygen levels and extreme weather. These illnesses can be fatal without immediate medical attention. Falls and accidents due to avalanches have a higher mortality rate.
Response Time and Assistance
The response time to a crisis on Everest is usually slow, often due to the inhospitable terrain and challenging weather conditions. Helicopter rescues, although increasingly common, are difficult and dangerous at such high altitudes. Sherpas play a crucial role in providing assistance and making rescue attempts, but sometimes even these brave and seasoned mountaineers can only do so much against the harsh nature of Everest.
The Himalayan Database reveals that the overall death rate for all Everest climbers, from 1921 to 2019, is around 1%. However, this average doesn’t mean much without context. When it comes to trekkers who run into problems or face life-threatening issues, the survival rate plummets dramatically.
A research paper in the British Medical Journal states that mortality increases significantly above 8,000 meters. For climbers who develop severe HAPE or HACE symptoms and cannot make a descent, the survival rate can be as low as 30%.
Q1: What is the most common cause of death on Mount Everest?
Most deaths on Mount Everest are due to falls, exposure, avalanches, and health problems related to high altitude, with the latter including hypothermia, exhaustion, heart attacks, and acute mountain sickness.
Q2: Can you get a helicopter to the top of Everest?
Although helicopters are used in rescue operations, it’s not possible to land a helicopter on the summit of Everest due to the thin air at such extreme altitudes. The highest that a helicopter has ever landed is Camp II.
Q3: How fit should you be to climb Mount Everest?
Climbing Mount Everest requires peak physical fitness. Climbers should be able to carry a 50–60lb pack for long hours and should have a strong cardiovascular system. It requires many months, maybe even years, of dedicated training.
Q4: What happens to bodies on Mount Everest?
Due to the extreme conditions and difficulty in performing high-altitude recoveries, many bodies of fallen climbers are left on Everest. They become part of ‘Rainbow Valley’, a morbid nickname for the colourful down jackets and climbing gear spotted amongst the grey rocks and white snow.
Q5: Is there a decrease in the number of deaths on Everest now?
Thanks to advancements in technology, better forecasting systems, and improved safety gear, the fatality rate on Everest has been slowly declining over the years. However, Everest remains a highly dangerous mountain, and each year brings its share of casualties.