Canadian had to 'climb over dead bodies' on Everest
Published Saturday, May 25, 2019 6:57PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 25, 2019 10:29PM EDT
At least nine people have died attempting to reach the top of Mount Everest this week, and a Canadian man saw the carnage first-hand.
Ottawa-based adventure filmmaker Elia Saikaly, who just climbed the mountain for the third time, said the conditions this year are “horrendous.”
“It was chaos. It was carnage. It was everything you read that was horrible about Mount Everest,” Saikaly told CTV’s Melanie Nagy Saturday from base camp.
“Within 20 minutes of leaving the last camp to go to the summit, we were seeing climbers being dragged down by their Sherpas. We were climbing over dead bodies."
Saikaly said he tried to convince a young woman to abandon her climb after he noticed her struggling.
“She was crying ... she didn’t have enough oxygen. I asked her to turn around and told her it was not worth her life,” he said. The woman died, according to Saikaly.
Saikaly blamed the deaths on “disorganized” companies that “don’t understand the needs of foreign climbers,” and climbers who are trying to “save a few bucks.”
“You just ask yourself, was it really worth it?” he said.
Several of the climbers who have died were stuck in the “death zone” above the final base camp before the summit, a place where climbers are fully exposed to the elements and where oxygen is at extremely low levels.
Professional climber Andrew Brash told CTV News Channel on Saturday that during high season, “you get people going to the top every day.”
That gridlock may be leading to altitude sickness, which occurs when people can’t get enough oxygen because of a rapid change in altitude.
An American climber died after succumbing to altitude sickness on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Robin Fisher of the U.K. died of the same affliction. His partner, Kristyn Carriere, is from Edmonton.
Brash has seen just how dangerous Everest can be. He helped save fellow mountaineer Lincoln Hall in 2006 after Hall succumbed to exhaustion and altitude sickness on his descent down from the summit. Hall spent the night out in the elements after Sherpa guides believed he had died. Brash and other climbers found him the next morning and assisted in his rescue and return to base camp.
Due to the small annual window of opportunity for climbers to reach the summit, a “mob mentality” can occur, according to Brash. That’s especially true when rumours of good weather swirl through camp, he said.
The rush of climbers attempting to take advantage of fair weather often results in traffic jams.
“There’s just too many people up there,” said Brash. “I feel like we need to back off a little bit”
Brash said that the Nepalese government could improve the situation by limiting the number of permits it hands out. This year, at least 381 permits were issued to foreign climbers -- a record number.
Brash said the mountain needs time to recover from the constant traffic, which has resulted in trash and corpses.
“It’s clearly out of hand right now,” he said.