A Record 885 Atop Everest in May

It’s official: Lists from Nepal and China jointly add up to a record-smashing 885 people on the summit of Everest this May. This figure, which includes both foreign and local climbers, is the highest ever, surpassing the previous record of 807 set last year.

Official list of Sagarmatha (Everest) climbers and summiters in 2019, issued by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

As usual, the Nepal side of the mountain saw the most traffic, with 644 summits, according to the country’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. In Tibet, climbers had to wait longer for the fixed ropes, but thanks to a late-May weather window, 241 still made it to the top, according to Xinhua news.

On the darker side, 11 people perished, making 2019 the third deadliest Everest season on record, after the 16 fatalities during an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall in 2014 and the 19 victims of the 7.8 earthquake the following year.

This year, victims perished from climbing-related events — falling, hypothermia, altitude sickness — rather than storms or natural disasters. The long lines jamming the peak’s upper route on May 23 didn’t help. Although it is hard to confirm the causes of death, at least four fatalities this season have been blamed on overcrowding, according to The Himalayan Times.

Fake summit news

The official record of 885 summiters is based on the climbers’ and their outfitter’s statements. Everest summit climbs are presumed true unless proven fake. Nevertheless, every year disputed claims are investigated and eventually deleted from the final tally.

While the Himalayan Database has yet to pass its judgment based on interviews, the local press has already unearthed some dubious summits. Indians Vikas Rana, Shobha Banwala and Ankush Kasana eventually admitted that they never made it beyond Camp 3 at 7,200m. Previously, they all claimed to have reached the top on May 26, after other climbers had returned to Base Camp. However, they couldn’t remember the names of their Sherpa guides, nor provide any summit proof. The Times of London denounced a similar case, involving a climber from the United Arab Emirates.

There have also been some confusing reports about style, most notably in Elisabeth Revol’s case. Her sponsor hurried to announce that the French woman had summited Everest and Lhotse back to back, without supplementary O2. Climbers who had been on the mountain that day denied the no-O2 claim. Controversy swirled until Revol returned home and confirmed that she had used bottled O2 on both peaks.

Related story:

Why So Many Deaths in the Himalaya This Year?