Four Indians are among nine climbers who lost their lives while attempting to scale Mount Everest and other major peaks in the Himalayas in Nepal this spring.
This year’s season - after two disastrous ones in 2014 and 2015, when climbing came to a halt after 35 deaths - has been described as a successful one with hundreds reaching the peaks of 8,000-metre-plus mountains.
“Four Indians, three Nepalis, one Dutch and one Australian are the casualties for this year. Five of those deaths took place on Mount Everest,” Gyanendra Shrestha, a tourism ministry official, told Hindustan Times.
Another Dutch climber, Christiaan Johan Wilson, has been presumed dead after he was reported missing on Mount Dhaulagiri (8,167 metres) three weeks ago.
Rajib Bhattacharya, who died on Mount Dhaulagiri due to high altitude sickness while descending after a successful summit on May 19, was the first Indian casualty this year.
Three others - Subhash Pal, Paresh Chandra Nath and Goutam Ghosh - succumbed to high altitude sickness on Mount Everest (8,848 metres) on May 21.
Pal’s body was retrieved by a team of six Sherpas, the bodies of the two others are lying above 8,000 metres on the world’s tallest mountain.
All four Indians who died this year were from West Bengal.
Two other climbers from a separate expedition, Australian Maria Elizabeth Strydom and Dutchman Eric Arnold, died on Everest on May 21 because of severe exhaustion and high altitude sickness.
Two Nepali citizens, Lakpa Wangel Sherpa and Da Tenji Sherpa, were the first to die this season. They died on Mount Makalu (8,463 metres) on May 11 due to altitude sickness.
A Nepali Sherpa guide, Ang Furba Sherpa, who was part of an Indian Army expedition, died on Mount Lhotse (8,516 metres) on May 19 when he fell down from a cliff while trying to fix ropes to the peak.
Despite the deaths, it was a successful year as nearly 500 climbers scaled six of the 8,000-metre-plus peaks. More than 450 of them were successful in reaching the peak of Everest.
“The season, which ended two weeks ago, was very good and it has erased the negative image of the past two years,” Nepal Mountaineering Association president Ang Tshering Sherpa told Hindustan Times.
He blamed the deaths on human error, lack of acclimatisation and poor management by expedition organisers, and said more care will be taken next year to ensure the peaks remain safe.
“Despite the deaths, we have been receiving lots of inquiries for next year and I hope the trend will continue,” said Sherpa, who owns Asian Trekking, a Kathmandu-based expedition organiser.