Friday, May 26, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: Reports of Dead Climbers at Camp 4 Untrue

We have another story from Everest today that I felt was once again worth giving its own post to just to make sure that it wasn't buried with the other news of current summit pushes. A few days back, it was widely reported that four dead bodies were found in a tent at Camp 4 on the Nepal side of the mountain. It appeared from the accounts that we received that the climbers were part of a new, smaller team and that they had suffocated in their tent, perhaps because they had used a stove without proper ventilation. Now, it appears that the story is completely false, and possibly the result of miscommunication.

The original story broke in an article posted by The Himalayan Times, but soon was picked up by major news outlets around the world. The story, as usual, was one about how dangerous and deadly climbing Everest truly is, which was lapped up by an eager audience. The original narrative had a team of Sherpas climbing up to C4 to retrieve the body of another mountaineer who had died during a summit push. But, when they reached the campsite, there were claims of four new bodies found inside of a tent instead. That was what was told to The Times, and that is the story that most of us shared as well.

However, Alan Arnette is now reporting that the story is not true. His sources, which include Mingma Sherpa from Seven Summits Treks and Rajan Pokhrel from The Himalayan Times, have now retracted the story and say there was an error on the part of the Sherpas who mistook what they saw. Alan has checked with several other sources who say there are no new bodies on the mountain, including Willie Benegas who personally checked all of the tents at Camp 4.

Exactly how this mistake was made remains a mystery, and of course the brain can do funny things at 8000 meters. But, thankfully no one else died on the mountain. Yes, there have been several noteworthy fatalities this year, but at least four more weren't added to the mix. That is good news at least.

Now, the question I have is how many of those mainstream news outlets will pick up on this story and report the error? I'm guessing not very many of them will follow-up with a correction, and audiences will once again be left with the impression that these four people died in their tent, underscoring the narrative that Everest is an incredibly dangerous and deadly place. By the time that this season ends, hundreds of people will have stood on the summit of the world's tallest mountain, with only a minuscule number perishing in the attempt. Every death is tragic and sad of course, but the fatality rate on Everest is also grossly over exaggerated at times.

I'll get off my soapbox for now, but I definitely wanted to share this news to make sure the story was set straight.

No comments: