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Mount Everest "Killer Mountains" - An ExplorersWeb Series
09:03 a.m. EST Oct 29, 2003
In ExplorersWeb's “Killer Mountains” 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 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.

And now, a look at Everest. (8,848m)

Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth and, therefore, one of the most difficult to summit. Climbing Everest has long been a dream to people around the world. The earliest British expeditions did not set out to climb Kangchenjunga first. Nor Cho Oyu or Makalu. They were not interested in first scaling K2. They wanted to stand on top of the world.

They wanted to climb Everest.

Many people today, if given the opportunity, choose to do exactly the same. There are easier climbs, and arguably, there are more difficult climbs – Everest has roughly 10 times more summiteers than K2. But the allure of Everest has never diminished.

The mountain was first officially summited on May 29,1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary, NZ and Tenzing Norgay, an Indian Sherpa from Darjeeling. Their summit followed several summit attempts by British and Swiss expeditions of which the Mallory and Irvine Expedition in 1924 is the most renowned and still a matter of discussion. Did they or did they not reach the summit 29 years before Hillary and Tenzing?

To date, there have been 1,924 ascents of Mount Everest (more than 1,300 different climbers), and 179 people have died. The overall fatality rate is thus about 9% (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%, with 106 deaths and only 284 summits. Yet from 1990 until today, the rate has dropped to 4.4%; 73 people have died, and 1,640 have summited. Thus, the rate decreased to about eight times less than the pre-1990 fatality rate!

At 8,848m, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain of the world’s fourteen 8,000m peaks and is one of the ten which lie in the Himalayan mountain range. In Nepal, Everest is called Sagarmatha (Goddess of the sky). The Tibetans call her Chomolungma (Mother Goddess of the universe); the same name is written Qomolangma in Chinese. Situated on the border between Nepal and Tibet, Mount Everest crowns the big High Asian mountain complex, where all of the world’s 14 8,000 meter peaks are found.

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.

On this, the 50th Anniversary year of Everest’s first ascent, a record number of climbers attempted to scale the peak and over 260 people reached the summit. There were four fatalities in all this year; three deaths occurred on or coming down the mountain and one occurred in Base Camp.

On Everest, each new season brings a new batch of dreamers and adventurers who shore up their own brand of courage on the world’s highest peak: A blind man has stood on the summit; snowboarders have dared direct descents down her steepest slopes. This autumn, a lone expedition is on Everest’s South Col route. Among the team was an American woman attempting to ski down from the summit.

Everest is a big mountain. Of course she inspires the biggest dreams.

With an overall fatality rate of just over 9% and modern fatality rate of about 4.5%, Everest is statistically less dangerous today.

Previous Articles - Killer Mountain Series

Shisha Pangma
Cho Oyu
Nanga Parbat
Broad Peak

Image of Mount Everest - ExplorersWeb Files.

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