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June 14, 2019

Everest Traffic Jam Causes

  • Pur Bahadur Gurung (Yukta)

I am associated with tourism since 2005. Lafrak is my village. I am 31 years old. I have climbed Everest four times including my recent ascent.

I have climbed around 100 peaks including higher and lower ones during my 10 year’s mountaineering careers. I joined the tourism field as a porter. Manaslu peak was my first attempt. After that, I became a cook. Then I started climbing peaks after I underwent basic training in mountaineering guides in 2009, which was organized by the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

I climbed Iceland Himal (6163 meters) at first. Then, I am continuing to climb peaks. From among the peaks of 6000 meters, I climbed Mira peak six times, Iceland peak 15 times, Chulo for East- 5 times, Yala peak 9 times, Thapa peak near Dhaulagiri 2 times, Manaslu 2 times, Amadablam 2 times and Everest peak 4 times.

Scenic View from Everest

Amadabalam is the best peak I ever liked that I climbed in 2018. I climbed the world’s highest peak Everest in 2011, which I repeated in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

I think I am the only climber from the Gurung tribe who succeeded in vanquishing Everest. My community also honored me for accomplishing this great feat.

In this season, 14, of our Sherpas had gone on an expedition along with 12 Chinese guests who are associated with the K2 expedition. After a few days of respite at Everest base camp, we climbed Labuche peak on April 23, 2019. On April 25, porters carried the luggage up to camp 2.

Actually, our main plan was to summit Everest on May 18, 2019. However, the weather did not favor us. Then, we made up our mind to reach atop Everest on May 22.

Climber on Everest with Nepali flag
Climber on Everest with Nepali flag

So, our expedition team moved towards camp 2 from base camp on May 18 along with 14 Sherpas and 12 mountaineers. We took rest at camp 2, on May 19. On May 20, we reached camp 3 and then camp 4, on May 21.

After our lunch at camp 4, we approached Everest peak by 7 pm in the evening. And on May 22, we successfully stepped on Mt. Everest at 7 a.m. in the early morning.  All our expedition members reached atop Everest in between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on that day.

Everest Traffic Jam

Traffic jam on Everest is the hot topic of discussion these days. Yes, we were also stranded in the same traffic jam for nearly 2 hours.  As a matter of fact, the Hillary step route cannot have two-way traffic of climbers.

So, the heavy traffic jam was due to climbers who were going to and coming from Everest peak on the same route.

Everest Traffic Jam (right)

The common understanding is to make way for the approaching climber friend. But it does not happen so. Few climbers are really stubborn who do not want to make space for other friends. That’s why there was a problem of traffic.

At times, one approaching climber has to step on to the back of the other climber coming from the opposite side to move past him or cross him on this route.

On May 21, evening I saw a crowd of climbers as many as 250 at camp 4. The main reason behind this was the adverse weather earlier. On seeing so many climbers on queue towards Everest, some of the climbers started approaching the highest peak by 4-5 p.m. in the evening. 

They reached atop Everest in the night time only, but they were not seen retreating. They kept sitting on the top of Sagarmatha till morning time because they could not take photos while descending.

Since our team had initiated moving towards the peak by 7 p.m. we did not come across anyone on the way. Those whom we met on the way told us that there was no space to put legs and feet on the Everest peak.

What to do during the Everest traffic jam?

Mountaineers at Everest
Mountaineers at Everest

When we happen to get stranded in the Everest traffic jam then we need to take care of our oxygen at first. The climbing guide must take serious care of this issue because the oxygen is managed for a certain time.

So, while being stuck up in the traffic jam, the use of oxygen must be reduced which would be better. As per my information, 3 to 11 cylinders of oxygen have been exhausted during this overcrowded jam.

It all depends on how we prepare our oxygen for the expedition. There are people in Kathmandu who manage Everest ascent for 30,000 dollars also, while few accomplish the same expedition for 60,000 dollars.

As for us, we had carried 9 oxygen cylinders and stored at camp4. As we were stuck up in the traffic, our clients’ oxygen exhausted. Then we returned to camp4 and fetched additional cylinders of oxygen to use them as supplement the exhausted ones.

Others may not have this kind of provisions and they may have problems in such situations.  A lot of changes have occurred since I climbed Everest in 2011. The ice has melted a lot. The soil and rocks and ice beneath it can be seen. This time there was too much of snow on Hillary step, so there was a problem.

Everest Pollution

People talk about Everest pollution as well. Camp 4 is more polluted. Dead bodies are scattered above this camp. However, camp 2 is better and clear enough which was polluted earlier.

All Pictures: Pur Bahadur Gurung (Yukta)

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