Dec 10, 2008 | 3
As difficult as it is to scale Mount Everest, coming back down from the world’s tallest peak is far more deadly, a new study shows.
Some 192 of the 212 deaths on the Himalayan mountain that occurred between 1921 and 2006 were above base camp, according to research in this week’s online edition of the British Medical Journal. Among climbers who died after scaling higher than 8,000 meters (26, 246 feet) above sea level, 56 percent succumbed on their descent from Everest’s 8,850-meter (29,000-foot) summit, and another 17 percent died after turning back. Just 15 percent died on the way up or before leaving their final camp.
Most of the deaths were among climbers – not sherpas who are native to the high altitude and have previously been found to have broader arteries and capillaries to deliver oxygen to their blood. While the sherpas who died did so more often at low altitudes — from falls or avalanches — for the climbers, the thin mountain air near the top proved fatal. They died mostly because the lack of oxygen caused blood vessels in their brains to leak fluid into the surrounding tissue, causing a fatal swelling called cerebral edema.
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