Four climbers over the weekend died from the brutal realities of Mount Everest, including one American doctor from Alabama.
Roland Yearwood, 50-years-old, was a primary care doctor from Georgiana, Alabama. While Yearwood was attempting to climb Mount Everest Sunday morning, he perished in a region of the mountain known as “the death zone,” less than 2,000 feet from the summit. In that area, experts say the oxygen content declines to less than 35 percent. The lack of oxygen, called hypoxia, can cause many physical ailments including increased breathing rate, lack of energy, diminished appetite, and decreased food absorption.
Prior to this fatal climb, Yearwood had survived a different incident on Mount Everest in 2015. That incident involved an avalanche that killed 18 people.
The three other climbers who died this weekend were from Australia, Slovakia and India.
This is a record year for climbing on Mount Everest, with Nepalese authorities issuing the most climbing permits ever to foreigners since they started regulating the climb in 1953. Authorities have issued over 370 permits this year, and around 150 people will be making their attempt at a summit on Monday and Tuesday.
Climber Jon Kedrowski, a doctor who successfully climbed Everest in 2012, says the large number of climbers causes problems. Dozens of climbers have to filter into a single-file line while making their way to the peak. The overcrowded expeditions make the already difficult climb more dangerous.
“People can be up there standing in line for three hours, then they run out of oxygen, and then the weather moves in,” Kedrowski said. “So you have all these factors that sort of compound into tragedy.”
Cory Richards, who has been documenting him climb to Everest’s peak with climbing buddy Adrian Ballinger, says deaths on the mountain serve as a reminder about the harsh realities of Mt. Everest.
“It’s a reminder to really make sure that it’s still worth it,” Richards said, “that our values are in the right place, that we’re doing this for the right reasons, and we’re willing to accept that risk.”
Despite a total of six climbers having lost their lives so far this year on Everest, Ballinger and Richards are hoping to summit early next week.
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