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Who Should Climb Everest?

In this photo made on May 22, 2019, a long line of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest. (Nirmal Purja/@Nimsdai Project Possible via AP)
Who Should Climb Everest?
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A Nepalese official says that it is time to examine the rules on who is permitted to climb Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.

Yagya Raj Sunuwar told The New York Times this week, “It’s time to review all the old laws.” The parliament member’s comment comes after the deaths of at least 11 climbers this year.

Climbing Everest has been a dream for many people ever since Edmund Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, reached the top of the mountain in 1953.

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2015, file photo, Mt. Everest is seen from the way to Kalapatthar in Nepal.
FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2015, file photo, Mt. Everest is seen from the way to Kalapatthar in Nepal.

Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries. The climbing industry brings in $300 million each year. Officials do not limit the number of permits the country issues to climbers.

This year, the government of Nepal issued Everest permits to 381 people, the highest number ever. Anyone can get a permit for an $11,000 fee.

A picture taken on May 22 shows a long line of climbers wearing colorful winter clothes as they make their way up the mountain. The climbers are standing on a snow-covered ridge with a 2,000-meter drop on either side. They are hanging on to a single line of rope.

“There were more people on Everest than there should be,” said Kul Bahadur Gurung, the general secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. He added, “We lack the rules…that say how many people can actually go up and when.”

At one time, only experienced mountaineers tried to climb Everest. But the cost of such an effort has decreased. This has led more and more inexperienced climbers to try to reach the top of Everest. Nepal only requires that climbers have a note from a medical doctor saying they are physically fit. Climbers do not have to prove they have the strength or ability to perform at extreme heights.

The number of climbers who have died this season is the highest since 2015. Most of those who died are believed to have suffered from altitude sickness. The condition is caused by low amounts of oxygen in extremely high places. It can lead to severe headaches, stomach sickness, shortness of breath and mental confusion. Because of the altitude, climbers have just hours to reach the top before they are at risk of having their lungs fill with liquid.

The area between Camp Four (8,000 meters) and the top of Everest (8,850 meters) is known as the “death zone.” When a climber dies in this zone, his or her body is left there. It would be too dangerous for another climber to spend their energy bringing the body down the mountain.

In this May 22, 2019 photo, a long line of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest just below camp four, in Nepal.
In this May 22, 2019 photo, a long line of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest just below camp four, in Nepal.

Eric Murphy made his third climb on Everest this year. He told the Associated Press, “Every minute counts there.” He said some tired climbers with no one to help them could take 17 hours -- instead of 12 -- to reach the top. For inexperienced climbers, that is “enough to have a profound effect.”

Among those who have died at Everest this year is American Christopher Kulish. He was from the state of Colorado. Kulish died on his way down, shortly after reaching the top. Just before he died, Kulish made it into the so-called “Seven Summit Club” of mountaineers who have reached the highest peaks on every continent, his brother said.

Mohan Krishna Sapkota is secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. He blamed weather, equipment and lack of oxygen for this year’s deaths.

However, he added, “In the next season we will work to have double rope in the area below the summit so there is better management of the flow of climbers.”

Mirza Ali is a Pakistani mountaineer and tour operator who reached Everest’s peak for the first time this month. It was his fourth time trying. He said, “Everybody wants to stand on top of the world.” But he said visitors who are unprepared for the extremes of Everest harm the mountaineering industry.

Ali added, “The more people come, the more permits, more business. But on the other side of it is a lot of risk because it is costing lives.”

I'm Alice Bryant.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ridge - n. a long area that is on top of the mountain

altitude - n. the height of something

confusion - n. the feeling that you have when you do not understand what is happening

zone - n. an area that is different from other area

profound - adj. very great

summit - n. the highest point of a mountain

double - v. to use two times as many

management - n. the process of controlling and dealing with something