BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) — A Colorado climber died on the descent from the summit of Mount Everest on Monday, his family confirmed. Christopher John Kulish, 62, scaled the 29,035-foot peak from the normal Southeast Ridge route in the morning but died suddenly at South Col after descending from the summit, Mira Acharya, Reuters reported.
Kulish is the 11th person to have died on the mountain this season, CNN reports.
His family issued the following statement:
“We are heartbroken at this news. Chris, who turned 62 in April, went up with a very small group in nearly ideal weather after the crowds of last week had cleared Everest. He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth. At that instant, he became a member of the “7Summit Club” having scaled the highest peak on each continent. An attorney in his “day job,” he was an inveterate climber of peaks in Colorado, the West and the world over. He passed away doing what he loved, after returning to the next camp below the peak. He leaves his mother, Betty (“Timmie”) Kulish, a younger sister, Claudia, and a younger brother, Mark.”
Kulish attended the University of Colorado-Boulder from 1984-1987, according to his LinkedIn profile.
On “CBS This Morning” Monday, correspondent Jericka Duncan explained some of the hazards facing those climbing 29,000 feet to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain.
Add a record number of people, and we’re seeing more deaths on the mountain than in recent years. The government of Nepal issued a record number of climbing permits this season – 381 people were given permission to ascend the world’s highest peak, which can create a logjam to reach the summit. That exposes climbers to extended periods in areas with dangerously low oxygen levels.
Expert climbers say May is the only month where strong winds die down enough to make summiting Everest possible. This year, that window was shorter than usual, meaning more people trying to reach the summit at the same time.
The combination of these two factors leaves people in the so-called “death zone,” right before the peak, much longer.
Expert climber Dr. Jon Kedrowski said, “If you’re on oxygen up high, on a day where it’s crowded and you have to wait on line, you can run out of oxygen, and that can lead to problems.”
Climber Cory Richards said, “Too many people, one weather window, all in, there are obvious consequences to it.”
Lack of regulation
Tibet’s side of Everest is much more heavily regulated, and that government issues a limited number of permits. But Nepal’s side is unregulated, and there is no cap on how many permits are given.
The permit system is a major economic driver for Nepal. Each permit costs $11,000 – and that doesn’t include money that is spent on food and hotels, so it’s unlikely that Nepal, a poor country, will change its system.