On May 22, one of the best weather windows of the season so far opened up on Everest, and more than 200 climbers made their push for the summit of the world’s highest peak. One of the climbers angling for the top of the 29,029-foot mountain was American Don Cash, who was climbing with Nepali-owned outfitter Pioneer Adventures. After more than 12 hours, Cash summitted along with the two Sherpas who were guiding him.
On the descent, though, something went wrong and Cash lost consciousness. The two Sherpas quickly performed CPR and were able to revive the 55-year-old and move him down to the Hillary Step, the iconic rock feature 200 feet below the summit. After the 2015 earthquake shifted rocks on the mountain, the Hillary Step is no longer as technically challenging as it once was. But it’s still a steep snow slope that can create bottlenecks, especially when there are hundreds of people all pushing for the summit at once. When Cash and his Sherpa guides got to the Hillary Step they were forced to wait their turn for at least two hours. During the wait, Cash passed out again and took his final breaths. The cause of death is currently unknown.
This is the third death on Everest this season. A climber from India, Ravi Thakar, died after summiting while at the South Col and Seamus Sean Lawless, of Ireland, disappeared after his summit and is presumed dead from a fall between the Balcony and South Col. There have been 12 deaths across the 8,000-meters mountains during this spring’s climbing period.