A Canadian filmmaker has vowed never to return to Everest after describing the “carnage” at the top of the mountain this year, which included having to step over a dead body. “Death. Carnage. Chaos,” was how Mr Saikaly, an experienced mountain climber, summed up what he saw after setting off to summit Everest on May 22.

everest death zone summit crowd
Climbers queue near the summit of Everest in amazing line of tourists straggling to the horizon. Nirmal Purja’s photograph via AFP

Elia Saikaly climbed Everest for the third time this month as he filmed a documentary about four Arab women making the ascent but was shocked by the scenes at the summit. More than 800 people have reached the peak this year, with at least 11 fatalities. A photograph of the queue to reach the summit went viral last week.

In an interview with The Ottowan Citizen, Mr Saikaly said that despite climbing the mountain three times he would not be returning again.Do I think I’ll go back? I don’t think so. Not after this season… It was pretty horrific.”

Mr Saikaly told The Telegraph: “When we left at 9.30pm it was very alarming as within 20 minutes we saw two Sherpas had brought down a deceased climber. Within 45 minutes an Indian climber was brought down who was delirious and screaming and yelling which are the signs of acute mountain sickness.

Roughly three hours into the climb, his group was forced to walk over another dead mountaineer. 

It was incredibly bizarre… every single climber making their way to the summit had to step over this person – absolutely devastating.

With temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees his group was then forced to wait in the ‘death zone’ to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain while “50 or 60” others at the top paused to take selfies.

Elia Saikaly's photo shows the line of climbers on Everest
Elia Saikaly’s photo shows the line of climbers on Everest

The Death Zone

But before you even make it to the top – an icy platform no wider than two ping pong tables – there are traffic jams on the final few feet in an area known as the “death zone.” At that altitude there is not enough oxygen for humans to breathe, so vital supplies are used up while the climbers just wait.

There are too many people navigating too small a space and too many of them don’t know what they are doing. He witnessed firsthand that deadly combination.

I was surprised at how many people were, you know, above 26,000 feet and were really obviously either not fit or not experienced and probably shouldn’t have been there,” Dohring said. “I certainly wasn’t prepared to pass dead bodies that were attached to the safety line. It was very difficult.

The last Mohican

Many were traumatised after passing another dead body near to the summit.

You are climbing this very famous iconic obstacle and just beneath you is a climber’s body, lifeless and lying there and you don’t know what to do or feel but you know you have to move or else you could be the next victim, ” Mr Saikaly said.

This is your dream… and we all reached the summit and most of us didn’t want to touch the highest point on earth because there were so many people up there.” 

Christopher Kulish, a 62-year-old American climber became the latest fatality on the mountain on Monday. The cause isn’t yet known, said his brother, Mark Kulish of Denver.

Christopher Kulish beneath Mount Everest - Credit: AP
Christopher Kulish beneath Mount Everest Credit: AP

He had just reached the top of Everest with a small group after crowds of hundreds of climbers congested the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak last week, his brother said.

He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth. At that instant, he became a member of the ‘7 Summit Club,’ having scaled the highest peak on each continent,” Mark Kulish said in a statement.

He described his brother as a lawyer in his “day job” who was “an inveterate climber of peaks in Colorado, the West and the world over. He passed away doing what he loved, after returning to the next camp below the peak,” Mark Kulish said.

Nepali Army personnel collect waste from Mount Everest at Namche Bazar in Solukhumbu district - Credit: AFP
Nepali Army personnel collect waste from Mount Everest at Namche Bazar in Solukhumbu district Credit: AFP

Climbing Season Ends

As this year’s climbing season comes to an end, army helicopters and porters transported the refuse down to Namche Bazar, the last major town on the route to Mount Everest.

As glaciers melt, they reveal human remains and rubbish, which has gathered over decades of commercial mountaineering and as an increasing number of big-spending climbers who pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.

The 14-strong team sent by the government spent about six weeks scouring for litter at base camp and at Camp 4 – nearly 8,000 metres up – scraping together empty cans, bottles, plastic and discarded climbing gear.

On May 29, 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary became the first climber to reach the summit with sherpa Tenzing Norgay, it was global news. Sixty-six years on, almost to the day, scaling the world’s tallest mountain has become an Instagram moment. A feat not just for the best – but for almost anyone with a bucket list.

That’s another terrifying phenomenon happening on Earth.

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[Telegraph, CBS News]

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