It has been an extraordinarily dangerous climbing season on Mount Everest. Eleven people have died while attempting to successfully summit and descend from the world’s highest mountain.
While the tragic events have occurred over 7,000 miles away the news is resonating in Connecticut.
There is a large climbing community in the Hartford area including West Hartford’s Lhakpa Sherpa.
“For so many people it’s a mountain, very difficult,” says Sherpa, who is a native of Nepal.
Sherpa has summitted a Guinness World record nine times, the most of any female climbers. While she’s been very successful, she understands the risk.
"Everybody has big dreams to summit Mountain Everest," explains Sherpa. "They want to summit and people get sick and people die people don’t make it."
What has happened on Everest this year has caught Sherpa’s attention but she is not entirely surprised.
“The mountain is all day strong. All the time strong but we (are) weaker and I really respect the mountain Everest,” she says.
Glastonbury’s, Bill Driggs is an experienced climber who, although never summitting, has attempted Everest three times. He attributes some of this year’s problems to congestion and slow climbing conditions because of inexperienced climbers.
“When there’s inexperienced climbers on the one rope going up or down the mountain they’re holding everybody up,” Driggs explains. “When you’re holding everybody up your fingers are getting cold you toes are getting cold. You’re losing oxygen. Your body is dying.”
Above 26,000 feet is what’s known as the “Death Zone.” It’s there, where oxygen is critical and at a premium. Time lost here can be catastrophic.
“It’s just at an elevation where your body can’t exist,” says Driggs. “No matter who you are, if you spend too much time in the death zone, you’re not coming back down.”