Calgary climber puzzled by new Mount Everest rules

A Calgary climber who has scaled Mount Everest twice says he isn't sure whether the latest steps to increase supervision on the mountain will make it more safe.

Nepalese government plans to keep agents at base camp to monitor activity

Buddhist prayer flags flutter in the wind in front of the Everest base camp. Nepalese officials are implementing new safety rules to try and minimize deaths. (Laurence Tan/Reuters)

A Calgary climber who has scaled Mount Everest twice says he isn't sure whether the latest steps to increase supervision on the mountain will make it more safe.

Many bodies are never recovered from Mount Everest. 'Green Boots' was an Indian climber who died on the mountain in 1996. His body is used as a landmark for other climbers. (Dave Watson/Associated Press)

The Nepalese government plans to keep agents at the mountain's base camp to monitor climbs, coordinate rescues and verify summits. The change follows growing concern over the number of deaths on the mountain, unusual records being set and some false claims of reaching the peak.

"You know what happens high in the mountains is really where the difficulties play and there's no way to really monitor that," said Andrew Brash. "There's no way somebody can be up there directing people or telling them what to do and also keeping track of all those expeditions from base camp is going to be very difficult."

Brash says he understands why the Nepalese government wants the rules but he has concerns about the impact of an on-site rescue team.

"Once you open that up, people behave a little bit differently," he said. "They maybe are a little less cautious and go for it even more, and then you might end up with more problems."

Mountain pathways "like a morgue"

Last year, a Toronto woman died after failing to listen to warnings by her Nepalese tour guides.

Shriya Shah-Klorfine and three other climbers died during their descent, apparently from exhaustion and altitude sickness.

Another Canadian climber live-tweeted her trek up the mountain just days after Shah-Klorfine's death and described the mountain as being "like a morgue."

Part of the danger lies in the narrow window of opportunities for climbers to make the ascent.

When the right moment hits, there can be 200 or 300 people on the mountain at the same time.

That increases the danger for everyone because being stuck behind slow climbers forces others to use up their own oxygen supplies, said Alan Arnette, an American mountaineer and blogger. Arnette successfully climbed Everest in 2011, following three failed attempts over the previous decade.

He has also completed the challenge of the seven summits — climbing the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents.

"It's a recipe for disaster," Arnette said of overcrowding on the mountain. "There were slow climbers and slow teams and it's almost impossible to pass on the higher sections of the mountain, so you end up getting stuck behind them and you're using your oxygen up and the clock is ticking and people aren't moving and you're getting cold."

Some 225 climbers have died while attempting to scale the mountain since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to do so in 1953.

Most of their bodies are never recovered because of the treacherous terrain and perilous weather conditions