Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, has long attracted climbers, despite—or perhaps because of—numerous risks, including severe weather, thin air, and challenging terrain. Attempts to summit the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak began in earnest in the 1920s. British mountaineer George Mallory—who famously said that climbers wanted to scale Everest simply “because it is there”—led a 1924 expedition in which he disappeared; his body was not discovered until 1999. Numerous failed attempts followed, and it wasn’t until 1953 that New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Tibet became the first people to reach the top.
For the next several decades, Everest largely remained the domain of a select few mountaineers. However, that began to change in the 1970s with the creation of companies that provided logistical support and expert guides, notably Sherpas. The number of climbers dramatically increased, despite the high costs—by 2016 a climber typically paid upwards of $45,000—and the climbers’ varying skill levels. In 2013 alone nearly 1,000 people tried to summit Everest, and some 660 succeeded. However, as the number of attempts increased, so did the deaths. By 2015 more than 250 climbers had died on the mountain, many succumbing to altitude sickness, hypothermia, and fatal falls.
The 2016 spring season, running from March through May, began on a promising note. For the first time in more than a year, climbers summited Everest; the mountain had been closed for much of the previous year following an earthquake in Nepal. However, news soon turned tragic as deaths were reported. Three climbers died while they descended the mountain, two reportedly overcome by altitude sickness and the third suffering a heart attack. The fourth victim was a Sherpa who fell while fixing a route near the summit.
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