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LHOTSE "Killer Mountains" - An ExplorersWeb Series
13:41 p.m. EDT Oct 15, 2003
In ExplorersWeb's new series, we investigate messages hidden in unique statistics compiled by AdventureStats. We look at fatality rates for the 14 8000+ mountains. We started with the dreaded Karakorum/Pakistan giants and will now take a look at the Himalayan peaks. But we are not stopping there. We compare modern and old fatality statistics, trying to determine the effects of the arrival of commercial expeditions in 1990s. AdventureStats is providing the research and later, will also look into the causes of deaths.

Today, Everest has hosted close to 2,000 successful summits. 179 people have perished giving a fatality rate of 9.3% (fatality rate is defined as successful summits compared to fatalities). However, since 1990 there has been an explosion of summiteers and fatality statistics have changed. Up to 1990 the Everest fatality rate is a whopping 37%, yet from 1990 until today the rate has dropped to 4.4%. So how does that compare to the rest of the 8000+ peaks? Let's check it out.

Today: Lhotse (8,516 m)

Lhotse lies just south of Mount Everest and is often overshadowed by the world’s highest peak due to their proximity to one another. The two giants are separated by the South Col ridge and share the same route to about 7,600m. Up to that point, the route is fairly well secured with fixed ropes, which may be a contributing factor to the success and lower fatality rate of Lhotse. However, today’s news of the avalanche that swept away two Korean climbers on Lhotse Shar is a reminder that, like every 8000er, Lhotse is an inherently dangerous climb.

Swiss climbers Fritz Luchsinger and Ernst Reiss became the first to summit Lhotse on May 18, 1956 in an expedition that also placed a party of climbers on the summit of Everest. They waited out “five days of hellish weather” before finally reaching the top.

In addition to its main peak, the Lhotse massif has two subsidiary summits – Lhotse Shar (8,400m) and Lhotse Middle (8,414m). In May 2001, a team of Russian climbers made the first ascent of the unclimbed Lhotse Middle, an exceedingly difficult climb.

To date, 243 climbers have summited Lhotse and 11 have died. The overall fatality rate is thus about 4%, less than half of Everest’s overall fatality rate of 9%. A comparison of recent statistics shows that Lhotse’s rate has diminished even further over the last decade. Up until 1990, the Lhotse fatality rate was nearly 14%. But from 1990 until today, 4 people have died, and 192 have summited. Thus the rate reduced to 2% – still less than half of the modern Everest fatality rate of 4.4%.

Whilst the old Everest risk was 37% and Lhotse’s was about 14%, over the last decade both rates (summit-fatality) have dramatically lessened. In a later follow up, we will look at the causes.

At 8,516m, Lhotse is the fourth of the world’s fourteen 8,000m peaks and the fourth highest mountain in the Himalayas. Ten of the fourteen 8000ers lie in the Himalayan mountain range. With more than 110 peaks that rise over 7,000m, the Himalayan range is the longest, highest mountain range on earth and home to ten of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Everest. It extends over 1,500 miles long and 250 miles wide as it passes through Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and India.

There is a long list of successful summits on Lhotse this year including Edurne Pasaban, who then went on to summit Gasherbrum I and II before the summer was out, thereby joining the small rank of women climbers who have scaled six 8000ers. Chantal Mauduit was the first female climber to scale Lhotse, reaching the summited without oxygen in May 1996.

With an overall fatality rate of about 4% and modern fatality rate decreased to 2%, Lhotse is statistically less dangerous than Everest today.

Previous Articles - Killer Mountain Series

Cho Oyu
Nanga Parbat
Broad Peak

Image of Lhotse courtesy of Gnaromondinelli.it.

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