Four climbers from Germany, South Korea, China and Canada have died this weekend returning from the summit of Mount Everest.
The world's 14 "eight-thousanders" -- mountains taller than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet) -- are all located in Asia. On one hand, they really beautify a horizon, but on the other they present a fierce, at times fatal, challenge to mountain climbers. Beauty can, indeed, be deadly. Here's the "baby" of the bunch, Shishapangma in Tibet, peaking at 8,027 meters (26,335 feet).
This is Gasherbrum II (we'll have another Gasherbrum coming up shortly), on the border of Pakistan and China. It's 8,035 meters up in the sky (26,361 feet) and is sometimes known as K4. These mountaineers are near the summit.
Ed Darack/Science Faction/Corbis
On the left side of this picture we see the sheer mass of Broad Peak, the 12th highest mountain on the planet at 8,047 meters or 26,394 feet above sea level.
As promised, here's another Gasherbrum: Gasherbrum I. (Gasherbrum, translated from the Tibetan language Balti, means "beautiful mountain.") It also goes by the name of K5, lives along the China-Pakistan border and is 8,080 meters (26,444 ft) high.
The Himalayan mountain range Annapurna, in Nepal, is seen here from Pkhara, about 124 miles (200 kilometers) west of Kathmandu. Annapurna is considered one of the most dangerous for climbers; first crested in 1950, it has since been climbed by more than 100 people but taken 53 lives along the way.
This somewhat unsettling photo was taken in 1931 by mountaineers at a base camp on Pakistan's Nanga Parbat, the ninth-tallest eight-thousander at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet). The area captured in the picture is known as the Nanga Wall.
Association Chantal Mauduit Namaste/Corbis/Sygma
Eighth-tallest of the eight-thousanders is Nepal's Manaslu, at 8,163 meters (26,781 feet).
The Dhaulagiri mountain range in the Himalayas sports a rather volcanic look in this picture, with the sun brushing its top. But Nepal's 8,167-meter (26,795-foot) monster is of course quite chilly on top. Dhaulagiri's south face is considered by mountaineers to be a next-to-impossible climb, and no one has ever topped the mountain from that side.
Clouds hover over snow-covered Cho Oyu mountain in Tibet. The sixth-tallest mountain stands 8,201 meters tall (26,906 feet), and the "Mountain Goddess" (in Tibetan translation) is considered one of less-challenging climbs among the eight-thousanders (if you don't consider climbing ANY mountain a challenge, that is!).
Next in the eight-thousander club is Makalu, the fifth-highest mountain in the world, looming on the border between Nepal and China. It's 8,463 meters (27,766 feet) tall and is another tough climb, with 22 deaths tallied against its 206 successful climbs.
Pal Teravagimov Photography
Standing 8,516 meters tall (27,940 feet), Lhotse, fourth-tallest, rests on the border of Nepal and Tibet. It was first climbed in 1956.
Kangchenjunga, in Nepal, is the world's third-tallest mountain, edging Lhotse by just 71 meters, standing 8,587 meters tall (28,169 feet). It's a prominent mark on the horizon in Darjeeling, the tea-growing region.
K2, the second-tallest mountain on the planet, is 8,611 meters up in the clouds (28,251 feet) along the China-Pakistan border. Climbers know it for its incredibly difficult ascent routes; in 2008, an ice fall on the treacherous slopes took the lives of 11 climbers.
And now we reach the Big Daddy in the worldwide mountains club. That, of course, would be Mount Everest. Its name alone is synonymous with challenging feats, as climbing it continues to this day to be a dicey endeavor, though it draws people year after year to attempt the ascent. And what a climb: Mount Everest stands 8,848 meters tall (29,029 feet). It was famously crested for the first time in 1953 by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay.
- Four climbers from Germany, South Korea, China and Canada died on Everest this weekend.
- The descent is often the most dangerous part of an Everest trek since intense fatigue sets in.
- All four died during their descent from Everest's peak.
Four climbers from Germany, South Korea, China and Canada have died returning from the summit of Mount Everest, tour agents and officials said Monday, with one other mountaineer also missing.
The 61-year-old German and the South Korean aged 44 died on the south face of the world's highest peak on Sunday, Ang Tshering Sherpa of the Kathmandu-based Asian Trekking adventure agency said.
"We are sad to announce the death of Eberhard Schaaf, of Germany, at the south side of the summit of Mount Everest," Sherpa said.
"The medical staff at the Himalayan Rescue Association believe the cause of death to be altitude sickness."
Sherpa said South Korean Song Won-Bin, who had been missing since Saturday, died at "The Balcony", an area near the top of the 8,848-meter (29,029-feet) peak.
The Seoul-based Yonhap news agency said Song had collapsed due to altitude sickness and fallen off a cliff, quoting a diplomat at the South Korean embassy in Kathmandu.
It said the climbers were part of a team of old classmates from the same high school in the central city of Daejeon.
About a dozen members flew to Nepal at the end of March to mark their school's 50th anniversary by climbing the peak. They were due to return home later this month.
Tilak Pandey, a tourism ministry official at Everest base camp, said separately that a 33-year-old Nepali-born Canadian woman named Shriya Shah had also been killed on Sunday.
Shah was born in Kathmandu and grew up in Mumbai, India, according to her website. She lived in Toronto and described herself as "an entrepreneur, political activist, social worker, and above all, a daring lady."
Speaking of her Everest expedition, she wrote: "This is my dream and passion, and want to do something for my country. Nothing is impossible in this world."
Another ministry official, Deependra Paudel, said 55-year-old Chinese climber Ha Wenyi had also been found dead, at 8,600 meters.
"Most of these deaths occur due to high altitude sickness," said Sherpa, adding that a Nepali mountain guide was also missing.
"Climbers spend their energy on the ascent and they are exhausted and fatigued on the descent."
Mountain guides from Sherpa's company told him of the discovery of the body of another climber on the north side of Everest but no further details were available to verify the death.
Everest's "death zone", the region above 8,000 meters, earned its name because it is almost impossible to survive the biting temperatures and lack of oxygen there for more than 48 hours.
Conditions have been particularly hazardous this year, said Nepalese government official Gyanendra Shrestha, with high winds and heavy snowfall delaying the construction of makeshift bridges over precipices.
"The first expedition reached the top only on May 18 whereas last year it was on May 5," he said.
"With so many people trying to reach the top there was a traffic jam. The next forecast for good weather is between May 24 and 26. By May 28, the ice will start melting and expeditions will have to be called off."
Two Nepali Sherpa climbers died on Everest in April, one falling into a crevasse at 5,900 meters and the other succumbing to altitude sickness at base camp.
Nearly 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first scaled it.
More than 200 people have died on the slopes of the giant peak.