After deaths on Everest, mountaineers go missing on Nanda Devi

In this file handout photo taken on May 22, 2019 and released by climber Nirmal Purja's Project Possible expedition shows heavy traffic of mountain climbers lining up to stand at the summit of Mount Everest. Photo: Handout/Project Possible/AFP

Pithoragarh: The rise in the number of mountain trekking enthusiasts in the Indian subcontinent have also been accompanied by a simulataneous increase in mountaineering accidents. The reports of Himalayan treks gone astray have been on an exponential rise in the past few weeks, the

latest site being the Nanda Devi East peak in India. An eight-member team of mountaineers, including seven foreign nationals, has gone missing on its way to the peak in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand.

The team, which includes seven mountaineers from the UK, US and Australia besides a liaison officer from the Indian Institute of Mountaineering, left Munsiyari on May 13 to scale the 7434-metre peak and was scheduled to return to the base camp on Friday.

The district administration has sent a rescue team in search of them after they failed to return to the base camp.

The district administration sprang into action after people at the base camp informed the authorities late on Friday night about the team going missing en route to the peak.

The route to the peak begins from Munsiyari, about 132 km from the district headquarters. From Munsiyari to the Nanda Devi base camp, mountaineers have to traverse a distance of about 90 km on foot.

The rescue team comprising State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), police and medical personnel has been sent to the Nanda Devi base camp in search of the climbers, Munsiyari sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) R C Gautam said.

The team was scheduled to reach the Nanda Devi base camp on Friday and Munsiyari on June 1, he said.

The SDM said the rescue team will reach the base camp late Saturday night and start rescue operation with the help of expedition team members at the base camp.

The Mt Everest tragedy

Recently, around eight Indian climbers had met a tragic ending on their way back from the tallest peak in the world, Mt Everest.

Blaming "over-crowding" during Mount Everest expeditions for the deaths, Akhil Maharashtra Giryarohan Mahasangh (AMGM), a mountaineers' organisation demanded that number of permits issued by the Nepal government to climbers be restricted.

Majority of deaths occurred while scaling down the peak.

It is said that in a traffic jam, exhausted climbers are often forced to wait for several hours for their turn to ascend or descend on a single rope, increasing chances of breathlessness, exhaustion, frostbite or altitude sickness.

Climbers could also run out of oxygen during the final phase of the ascent.
"To issue a permit to climb the mountain, $ 11,000 are being charged by Nepal Tourism Department, however, while issuing these permits, the department does not pay any heed to the fact that how many climbers should be allowed at one point of time," said Umesh Zirpe, President OF AMGM.

He rued the fact that there are no restrictions on the number of climbers.

"If you see, only a two-week clear weather window is available in the entire year and to catch that window, everybody rushes to Nepal," he said.

"Above the height of 8000 meters, there is a minus temperature, oxygen level goes down to hardly one to two per cent and climbers have to climb using supplementary oxygen which has limited stock. If the situation like traffic jam of climbers occur, the climbers have to halt and when they halt, there is the danger of oxygen stock getting over.

This was the key reason behind some of the deaths that had happened recently, he said, adding that all these people died just because of "human mistakes".

"This year, to catch the clear weather window of May 21, more than 270 people went to climb and due to havoc, a lot of people had to suffer health complications and at least 8 Indians died," he said, adding that many mountaineers who want to scale the world's highest peak lack proper training.

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