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Mortality on Mount Everest, 1921-2006: descriptive study.

Firth PG, Zheng H, Windsor JS, Sutherland AI, Imray CH, Moore GW, Semple JL, Roach RC, Salisbury RA - BMJ (2008)

Bottom Line: Profound fatigue (n=34), cognitive changes (n=21), and ataxia (n=12) were the commonest symptoms reported in non-survivors, whereas respiratory distress (n=5), headache (n=0), and nausea or vomiting (n=3) were rarely described.Debilitating symptoms consistent with high altitude cerebral oedema commonly present during descent from the summit of Mount Everest.Profound fatigue and late times in reaching the summit are early features associated with subsequent death.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA. pfirth@partners.org

ABSTRACT

Objective: To examine patterns of mortality among climbers on Mount Everest over an 86 year period.

Design: Descriptive study.

Setting: Climbing expeditions to Mount Everest, 1921-2006.

Participants: 14,138 mountaineers; 8030 climbers and 6108 sherpas.

Main outcome measure: Circumstances of deaths.

Results: The mortality rate among mountaineers above base camp was 1.3%. Deaths could be classified as involving trauma (objective hazards or falls, n=113), as non-traumatic (high altitude illness, hypothermia, or sudden death, n=52), or as a disappearance (body never found, n=27). During the spring climbing seasons from 1982 to 2006, 82.3% of deaths of climbers occurred during an attempt at reaching the summit. The death rate during all descents via standard routes was higher for climbers than for sherpas (2.7% (43/1585) v 0.4% (5/1231), P<0.001; all mountaineers 1.9%). Of 94 mountaineers who died after climbing above 8000 m, 53 (56%) died during descent from the summit, 16 (17%) after turning back, 9 (10%) during the ascent, 4 (5%) before leaving the final camp, and for 12 (13%) the stage of the summit bid was unknown. The median time to reach the summit via standard routes was earlier for survivors than for non-survivors (0900-0959 v 1300-1359, P<0.001). Profound fatigue (n=34), cognitive changes (n=21), and ataxia (n=12) were the commonest symptoms reported in non-survivors, whereas respiratory distress (n=5), headache (n=0), and nausea or vomiting (n=3) were rarely described.

Conclusions: Debilitating symptoms consistent with high altitude cerebral oedema commonly present during descent from the summit of Mount Everest. Profound fatigue and late times in reaching the summit are early features associated with subsequent death.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Fig 1 Deaths on standard north and south routes of Everest during spring climbing season (April-June) 1982-2006. Deaths during descent are above route profile and deaths before summiting or during bids for summit with unknown outcome are below. One sherpa died below Yak camp during evacuation. Right axis shows estimated barometric pressure during May,14 and percentage of oxygen at sea level (760 mm Hg) that exerts equivalent partial pressure to atmospheric oxygen at relevant altitude. Left axis shows estimated ambient air temperature during May.15 16 Scale on x axis is expanded by factor of two for route above 8000 m. *Two sided Fisher’s exact test
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fig1: Fig 1 Deaths on standard north and south routes of Everest during spring climbing season (April-June) 1982-2006. Deaths during descent are above route profile and deaths before summiting or during bids for summit with unknown outcome are below. One sherpa died below Yak camp during evacuation. Right axis shows estimated barometric pressure during May,14 and percentage of oxygen at sea level (760 mm Hg) that exerts equivalent partial pressure to atmospheric oxygen at relevant altitude. Left axis shows estimated ambient air temperature during May.15 16 Scale on x axis is expanded by factor of two for route above 8000 m. *Two sided Fisher’s exact test

Mentions: The death rate during all descents from the summit via the standard routes was higher for climbers than for sherpas (2.7% (43/1585) v 0.4% (5/1231), P<0.001; all mountaineers 1.9%). Figure 1 presents the mortality and distribution of deaths on the standard routes during the spring climbing seasons of 1982 to 2006. Of 77 deaths, 55 occurred during bids for the summit (51 climbers, four sherpas, 71%) and 22 during preparation of the route (11 climbers, 11 sherpas, 29%). Six incidents involving objective hazards resulted in eight deaths on the standard south route; no deaths occurred on the north route in this category.


Mortality on Mount Everest, 1921-2006: descriptive study.

Firth PG, Zheng H, Windsor JS, Sutherland AI, Imray CH, Moore GW, Semple JL, Roach RC, Salisbury RA - BMJ (2008)

Fig 1 Deaths on standard north and south routes of Everest during spring climbing season (April-June) 1982-2006. Deaths during descent are above route profile and deaths before summiting or during bids for summit with unknown outcome are below. One sherpa died below Yak camp during evacuation. Right axis shows estimated barometric pressure during May,14 and percentage of oxygen at sea level (760 mm Hg) that exerts equivalent partial pressure to atmospheric oxygen at relevant altitude. Left axis shows estimated ambient air temperature during May.15 16 Scale on x axis is expanded by factor of two for route above 8000 m. *Two sided Fisher’s exact test
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2602730&req=5

fig1: Fig 1 Deaths on standard north and south routes of Everest during spring climbing season (April-June) 1982-2006. Deaths during descent are above route profile and deaths before summiting or during bids for summit with unknown outcome are below. One sherpa died below Yak camp during evacuation. Right axis shows estimated barometric pressure during May,14 and percentage of oxygen at sea level (760 mm Hg) that exerts equivalent partial pressure to atmospheric oxygen at relevant altitude. Left axis shows estimated ambient air temperature during May.15 16 Scale on x axis is expanded by factor of two for route above 8000 m. *Two sided Fisher’s exact test
Mentions: The death rate during all descents from the summit via the standard routes was higher for climbers than for sherpas (2.7% (43/1585) v 0.4% (5/1231), P<0.001; all mountaineers 1.9%). Figure 1 presents the mortality and distribution of deaths on the standard routes during the spring climbing seasons of 1982 to 2006. Of 77 deaths, 55 occurred during bids for the summit (51 climbers, four sherpas, 71%) and 22 during preparation of the route (11 climbers, 11 sherpas, 29%). Six incidents involving objective hazards resulted in eight deaths on the standard south route; no deaths occurred on the north route in this category.

Bottom Line: Profound fatigue (n=34), cognitive changes (n=21), and ataxia (n=12) were the commonest symptoms reported in non-survivors, whereas respiratory distress (n=5), headache (n=0), and nausea or vomiting (n=3) were rarely described.Debilitating symptoms consistent with high altitude cerebral oedema commonly present during descent from the summit of Mount Everest.Profound fatigue and late times in reaching the summit are early features associated with subsequent death.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA. pfirth@partners.org

ABSTRACT

Objective: To examine patterns of mortality among climbers on Mount Everest over an 86 year period.

Design: Descriptive study.

Setting: Climbing expeditions to Mount Everest, 1921-2006.

Participants: 14,138 mountaineers; 8030 climbers and 6108 sherpas.

Main outcome measure: Circumstances of deaths.

Results: The mortality rate among mountaineers above base camp was 1.3%. Deaths could be classified as involving trauma (objective hazards or falls, n=113), as non-traumatic (high altitude illness, hypothermia, or sudden death, n=52), or as a disappearance (body never found, n=27). During the spring climbing seasons from 1982 to 2006, 82.3% of deaths of climbers occurred during an attempt at reaching the summit. The death rate during all descents via standard routes was higher for climbers than for sherpas (2.7% (43/1585) v 0.4% (5/1231), P<0.001; all mountaineers 1.9%). Of 94 mountaineers who died after climbing above 8000 m, 53 (56%) died during descent from the summit, 16 (17%) after turning back, 9 (10%) during the ascent, 4 (5%) before leaving the final camp, and for 12 (13%) the stage of the summit bid was unknown. The median time to reach the summit via standard routes was earlier for survivors than for non-survivors (0900-0959 v 1300-1359, P<0.001). Profound fatigue (n=34), cognitive changes (n=21), and ataxia (n=12) were the commonest symptoms reported in non-survivors, whereas respiratory distress (n=5), headache (n=0), and nausea or vomiting (n=3) were rarely described.

Conclusions: Debilitating symptoms consistent with high altitude cerebral oedema commonly present during descent from the summit of Mount Everest. Profound fatigue and late times in reaching the summit are early features associated with subsequent death.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus