Two Everest climbers died high on the mountain during their summit bids yesterday. Over 50 other climbers summited successfully the same day.
Both climbers were being guided by Seven Summits Treks, whose cofounder Chhang Dawa Sherpa posted about the deaths on social media. Abdul Waraich, 41, of Switzerland, died near the 28,500-foot South Summit. “Mr. Abdul successfully reached the summit but began experiencing issues during his descent. We sent two additional Sherpas with oxygen and foods, unfortunately Sherpas couldn’t save him,” wrote Dawa Sherpa. Although Dawa Sherpa attributed the death to general exhaustion, the exact cause is unclear. However, altitude sickness is a common cause of death on the mountain. Waraich had previously climbed six of the Seven Summits, and the Everest climb marked his seventh. He worked as a consultant for Swisscom in Zurich.
The second climber, Pakistani-American Puwei Liu, 55, reached the Hillary Step at 28,800 feet before suffering exhaustion and snow blindness, a condition in which a person loses much of their vision in the bright snow. Sherpas were able to guide him to the South Col at 26,300 feet, where he died. Liu had summited Nepal’s 26,759-foot Manaslu in 2017 and China’s 24,757-foot Muztagh Ata in 2016.
Seven Summits Treks intends to retrieve both corpses as conditions allow. It usually takes five to ten Sherpas to bring a body down from those altitudes. Since 2000, an average of almost four people have died each year on the Nepal side of the world’s highest peak. The weather was excellent on May 11 and 12, when over 100 climbers summited.
Nepal issued a record 408 climbing permits to foreigners for the spring 2021 season after being closed last year due to the pandemic. COVID has impacted multiple teams at Base Camp, with over 30 people evacuated to Kathmandu with symptoms. There have been no reported deaths related to the virus in the Everest climbing community.
Low winds and clear skies this week have allowed more than 150 foreigners and Sherpas to summit safely. There were no summits today. Strong winds are expected to return to the mountain for the next ten days, stopping all progress.