Canadian climber Shriya Shah-Klorfine died “in the pursuit of her dreams” while descending from the summit of Mount Everest nearly two weeks ago, and it’s certain her death won’t be the last on the mountain.
The Toronto resident was among four people who died on May 19, a day that was an exceptionally busy day on the peak, where an estimated 150 people made their way to the summit. The traffic created a bottleneck, slowing progress for climbers and taxing their stamina in the so-called death zone, where mental and brain function decline dramatically due to high altitude.
The tragic day is further evidence of how far people will go to scale the world’s tallest peak, which measures 8,848 metres and has claimed the lives of more than 220 people.
Caution, it seems, is often thrown to the wind when it comes to the legendary mountain, and this year was no exception. It’s not like there weren’t lessons to be learned from tragic examples of overcrowding before this year.
Indeed, eight people died on Everest in 1996 after bad weather, a bottleneck near the top of the mountain and climbers’ summit-focused mindset created conditions for a sickening day that could have been much worse. The events that led to the deaths and the questions that surfaced after are famously chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s gripping book Into Thin Air.
Even though the first-person account of the ill-fated expedition has sold more than three million copies, it seems the book’s lessons have gone unheeded. And it’s likely it will continue that way.
The commercialization of Everest has been going on for decades, and with people willing to fork out tens of thousands of dollars for a shot at the top of the world, deaths are inevitable.
Even with doctors, full communication, high-altitude helicopter rescues, knowledgeable guides and experienced Sherpas on hand to help with people’s dreams to summit Everest, greed, pride and inexperience can easily derail even the most safety-conscious operations.
As Ganesh Thakuri, owner of Utmost Adventure Trekking, which oversaw Shah-Klorfine’s expedition, said after recovering the Canadian’s body: “Anything can happen on the mountain.”
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.