The spring climbing season on Mt. Everest is barely a week old and the mountain has already claimed its first death of the year. On Sunday, 45-year-old Mingmar Sherpa took a fatal fall into a crevasse while descending from Camp 2 on the mountain’s South Side. His companions attempted to mount a rescue operation but it took several hours to retrieve his body from the crevasse, at which time it was already too late.
Mingmar was a member of the famed Everest Icefall Doctors, a highly trained group of Sherpas whose job it is to build and maintain a safe route through the Khumbu Icefall each year. The group places ladders across open crevasses and fixes ropes through this dangerous section, allowing the climbers that come after them to pass through quickly and safely. That route had just been completed on Saturday and the Icefall Docs were helping to shuttle gear up the slope to two of the higher camps when the accident occurred.
Last spring was a particularly deadly season on the world’s tallest mountain where ten people lost their lives in pursuit of the summit. Unusually warm and dry conditions helped to make the mountain unstable, causing rocks to tumble down its slopes and forcing climbers to scramble across bare rock rather than the more preferred snow and ice. The 2013 season doesn’t appear to be a repeat of those conditions, however, as it has been a long, cold winter – with plenty of snow – in the Himalaya this year. As a result, the entire mountain is more stable, which should translate to fewer hazards and fatalities in the weeks ahead.
The mountaineering teams are just now arriving in Base Camp and will begin heading up the mountain in the next few days. Most will spend several weeks acclimatizing to the altitude while honing their skills and watching the skies for a weather window that will allow them to make a summit bid. Traditionally, the first summit attempts from the commercial climbing teams begin around mid-May.
Hopefully this early-season death isn’t a sign of things to come this year.
[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]