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Mount Everest: The world's highest traffic jam

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

In this Saturday, May 18, 2013 photo, climbers from various countries make their way down towards Camp 4 on their way to summit the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) Mount Everest. May is the most popular month for Everest climbs because of more favorable weather. Earlier this month, an 80-year-old Japanese man Yuichiro Miura became the oldest conqueror of Mount Everest and Raha Moharrak became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to scale the peak.

Pasang Geljen Sherpa, Associated Press

Reaching the summit of Mount Everest has gone from being an almost impossible feat with a high fatality rate to a weekend activity.

In the early 1900's, climbing Mount Everest was like going to the moon. Recorded as the tallest mountain at 29,029 feet, the first successful recorded ascent to the summit was May 29, 1953 by Edmund Hillary, a philanthropist and mountaineer from New Zealand, and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Indian Sherpa mountaineer.

However, thanks to advances in equipment and the help of Sherpa guides, more and more climbers are now summiting Mount Everest, causing congestion similar to rush hour traffic jam, BBC Magazine reported.

According to National Geographic, 18 percent of summit attempts in 1990 were successful. By 2012, summit attempts jumped to a 56 percent success rate. In the spring of 2012, 547 people were able to reach the top of Mount Everest successfully. More than 6,000 successful summits have been recorded since 1953.

"There were just people everywhere," Ayisha Jessa, 31, a climber from London who recently visited Everest's base camp, told BBC Magazine. At the nearby village of Namachi, she said, "It's completely commercialized — everything is intended for the Western traveller."

The price to climb Mount Everest can range from $10,000 to $100,000, and in 2012, nearly $12 million was spent on permits and guides to hike Mount Everest in Nepal, Mark Jenkins wrote at National Geographic.

The high volume of hikers is causing problems on the mountain, from litter and sanitation issues to time wasted waiting at crucial points along the trail, the National Geographic and BBC articles said.

"There were people who didn't have much experience, so they were slow on the harder bits and we were standing in queues. If there had been bad weather it could have been very dangerous. It took us a bit over 10 hours to reach the summit and about a quarter of that was spent waiting in a line," Christian Elde, a part-time mountain guide from Oslo, Norway, told The Guardian.

The congestion has devalued the experience for some experienced mountaineers.

"It isn't a wilderness experience — it's a McDonald's experience," Graham Hoyland, an experienced mountaineer and author of "The Last Hours on Everest," an account of the ill-fated 1924 ascent by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, told BBC Magazine.

Tour parties ascend the mountain using fixed ropes, which help less experienced climbers reach the top, Jon Kelly wrote in BBC Magazine. These fixed ropes allowed 13-year-old Jordan Romero from California become the youngest person to climb Everest in 2010, and 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura from Japan recently set a new world record to be the oldest climber to reach the summit.

"Normally, as long as they are not too ill or too weak, nearly everyone — if they have enough money and patience — can get up Everest," Eberhard Jurgalski told BBC Magazine.

"Also, if the weather hasn't been good for a few weeks it becomes much more crowded on the days you can climb."

Some are worried that the influx of inexperienced climbers on such a hazardous terrain could have fatal consequences. On May 11, 1996, eight people died within 36 hours near the summit primarily due to exposure.

In 2012, 10 lives were lost on Mount Everest, and eight more have lost their lives in 2013. The most recent to lose their lives on the mountain was Seo Sung-Ho from South Korea and Mohammed Hossain from Bangladesh, who lost their lives on May 21, 2013, during their descent.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story posted on May 28, 2013, failed to properly attribute all source materials, which violates our editorial policies. The story was revised on Oct. 10, 2013, to link to original source material.

Email: crenouard@deseretnews.com

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