Prayer flags near Everest. Photo: Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock
At least four climbers are dead after a weekend of summit attempts on Mount Everest. German Eberhard Schaaf, 61, died from apparent altitude sickness Sunday at around 28,700 feet on the South Summit. South Korean Song Won-Bin, 44, who has been missing since Saturday, collapsed with acute mountain sickness and fell off a cliff at The Balcony at 27,600 feet. Nepali-born Canadian climber Shriya Shah, 33, died Sunday, and the body of 55-year-old Chinese climber Ha Wenyi was found near 28,200 feet. Neither cause of death has been confirmed. "Most of these deaths occur due to high-altitude sickness," Asian Trekking founder Ang Tshering Sherpa said. "Climbers spend their energy on the ascent and they are exhausted and fatigued on the descent." A Nepali guide was also reported missing on Saturday. Successful summits include Ueli Steck's climb without oxygen on Friday and 73-year-old Tamae Watanabe's ascent on Saturday. Watanabe is the oldest woman ever to climb the mountain.
Cory Richards, the award-winning photographer and climber for the North Face, will not return to Mount Everest after suffering respiratory distress that forced his evacuation from 23,000 feet on Saturday. Doctors in Kathmandu cleared Richards to return to the mountain after finding no evidence of altitude-related illness, but team leaders at Base Camp remain concerned for Richards' health and have pulled him from the expedition. "Though I'm deeply disappointed in the decision not to let me return, I understand completely the team's collective concerns regarding my health and well-being, and honor and respect them," Richards wrote in an email on Wednesday. He is now in Kathmandu and will return to his home in Boulder, Colorado. Richards' climbing partner, Conrad Anker, has not yet decided whether to continue up the West Ridge, though he says he is looking for a suitable partner.
Cory Richards, a North Face team athlete and member of the National Geographic Society, was flown by helicopter from Everest Base Camp to the nearby medical facility of Lukla, Nepal, after doctors feared a pulmonary embolism. The celebrated photographer—he was just recently awarded the Rowell Award from the American Alpine Club, which honors a great adventure photographer—was making his first attempt at Everest via the little-traveled West Ridge. At about 23,000 feet on Saturday afternoon, local time, Richards was climbing with expedition leader Conrad Anker when he turned back due to shortness of breath. After descending to Camp II, where he was given supplemental oxygen, Richards was advised to continue moving down the mountain. It wasn't until he reached Base Camp that a rescue was possible, and even then it had to be completed by the one pilot who refused to be grounded by bad flying conditions. Richards is now in Kathmandu awaiting diagnosis.