A renowned adventurer from Yorkshire has warned that record numbers of climbers attempting to summit Mount Everest may be lulled into a “false sense of security” despite a succession of deaths on the peak’s treacherous slopes.
Alan Hinkes, from Northallerton, has spoken of the challenge which climbers face amid rising numbers attempting to summit the world’s highest mountain.
Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, from Birmingham, became at least the seventh climber to die on Everest in two weeks when he collapsed on his descent after reaching the 29,029ft summit on Saturday.
His death, after he reportedly shared concerns about overcrowding, followed photographs of “traffic jams” on the mountain as climbers queued to summit.
Mr Hinkes, who reached the top of Everest in 1996 while working with a camera crew following Mexborough-born actor Brian Blessed, remains the only British mountaineer to claim all 14 Himalayan 8,000m peaks.
He said: “When I went, there were four of us on the mountain. And it was truly great – I felt like I could see the curvature of the earth. There was nothing like it.
“But you are risking your life. Now, there are more people. It’s more prepared, there are fixed ropes. You get a false sense of security, because there are people around you.
“It doesn’t feel as dangerous, but it’s possibly even more so. Everest is not easy. It is a risk to life.”
He added: “You are literally in a death zone – there are no rescue teams, no helicopters. If you’re stood in a queue, you could die. It does add to the risk. But people can say they’re not going up that day. Nobody is forced into it.”
Through the spring climbing season, which ends next week, a total of 378 climbers are permitted to scale the mountain, along with an equal number of Nepalese guides.
Within that narrow window, and amid a rise in popularity, there have been reports that crowds are become more commonplace.
There have been calls for the number of permits to be reduced following a rise in deaths. But with passes already costing about £40,000, Mr Hinkes argues this would make the challenge even more unattainable to those who are not incredibly wealthy.
“Then only the very richest would be able to climb it,” he said. “Mountaineering isn’t about restrictions.”
Ascents on Everest are dictated by weather, he said, with this year seeing only a handful of days where it was deemed safe.
“There won’t be 200 people on today,” he said. “And there won’t be anybody on it in June.”