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Mount Everest: a deadly playground

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 03 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:81
  1. Morten Rostrup, senior research fellow in emergency and intensive care medicine
  1. Oslo

    On 11 May 1997 five climbers died during their descent from Mount Everest on the north ridge. Exactly one year and one day earlier eight people died during a storm below the summit. Seven more died later the same year, making 1996 the worst ever on Everest. As a doctor on a Norwegian Everest expedition, I partly witnessed and partly took part in rescue operations on the north side of the mountain where four climbers died. This was my sixth expedition to the Himalayas and my 12th to mountains above 5000 m. The incidents illustrate important medical and ethical aspects of high altitude climbing, and should be considered carefully by expedition doctors.

    On 10 May 1996 three Indian climbers were overtaken by bad weather close to the summit and did not make it back to the camp that night. Early next morning five climbers from another expedition headed for the summit. They met the first Indian climber alive on the north ridge below the most difficult part of the climb—the second step. He was reported to be moving slowly downwards. Despite obvious need for help, the team continued and met his two fellow climbers above the second step, still alive, but suffering from altitude sickness, exhaustion, and hypothermia. They …

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