At Least Four Dead as Too Many Thrill-Seekers Try to Summit Everest at OnceS

At least four people have perished near the peak of Mount Everest this weekend, and the body count may yet rise according to unconfirmed reports from the site.

The four climbers — a German doctor, a Nepal-born Canadian citizen, a South Korean mountaineer, and a Chinese climber — died as a result of exhaustion and high-altitude sickness on their way down from the summit.

A major issue this year wreaking havoc on the health of Everest scalers is a phenomenon known as the "traffic jam."

A confluence of complications — late start to an already tight climbing season, a rise in the number of climbers looking to summit the mountain, and an overcrowding at the perilous "Hillary Step" leading to the top — has resulted in a life-threatening bottleneck that leaves climbers stranded at the summit for longer than is advisable.

"That's a hell of a lot of standing around," says experienced expeditionist Tom Briggs. "That certainly increases the dangers of frostbite and other problems like high-altitude sickness."

Some Sherpa guides are recalling the tragic climbing season of 1996 — the deadliest on record — in describing the dangers they've encountered this year.

Others say this is an all-together new threat. "This is the first time I've seen it like this," Onzchhu Sherpa told Outside Magazine.

Sadly, he may see it again soon: A new traffic jam is expected as some 200 climbers attempt to reach the summit this weekend.

[H/T: NPR, screengrab via Outside]