A Record Number of Mountain Rescues in the Himalayas

May 23, 2022

Categories: Press Release,

More mountaineering rescues are expected as the Mount Everest Summit Window Opens 

Lebanon, NH – May 20, 2022 – A record number of high-altitude mountaineers and trekkers are in the Himalayas for the spring climbing season and it’s driving a corresponding record number of rescues. 

 “We’ve already seen an uptick in rescues this year. While the number of climbing and trekking permits issued for Mount Everest is lower than they were last year, the overall number of permits for climbing in the Himalayas is a record for 2022,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. 

“There have been nearly 700 permits issued throughout the Himalayas as of the last count. With an increase in mountaineering activities, there is a parallel need for rescue services. We’ve seen a record number of rescues so far this year throughout the Himalayas, and we’re expecting more as the summit window opens over the next week to 10 days depending on the weather,” he said. 

Mountaineers and high-altitude trekkers are eager to return to Mount Everest and the Himalayas following two years of COVID-related travel restrictions. But the two-year shut-out from climbs above 20,000 feet/6,000 meters may have left people less prepared.  

“The higher number of rescue operations may be the result of people not being in quite as good condition, or as fit, as they might otherwise have been before coming to the Himalayas to climb. There are also more people and, when you have greater populations who may not be as well-conditioned as usual, especially in these high-altitude environments, you are going to have more rescues,” Richards said. 

There is good news for high peak climbers. The weather conditions are forecast to be favorable and may provide a longer summit window for Mount Everest and other peaks in the range. “The Jetstream has moved off of Mount Everest where it usually likes to sit, making summits more likely to be successful. It’s been drier, warmer and a little less windy than normal,” he said. 

A longer-lasting favorable weather window will create conditions to help avert traffic jams on Mount Everest. When there’s a short weather window, everyone tries to scramble up the mountain and take advantage of that weather window and get their summit. But if the weather is good and stable – and if expedition groups stagger their summit attempts – then overcrowding will be minimized or prevented. 

“Organized summits are best for everyone. Mount Everest and other popular mountains can accommodate quite a few people. Climbing organizations must work together to sequence ascents properly. When people get bunched up you start seeing crazy conga lines going right to the summit. It’s also when you have the risk for a mass casualty event with a lot of people being stuck in the death zone, the altitude above 26,000 feet/8,000 meters where there is insufficient oxygen for the human body to survive,” Richards said. 

As in many past years, Global Rescue has deployed its medical operations team to support our mountaineering and trekking members in the event of a medical emergency. “Anytime you are exerting yourself at high altitudes, especially above 18,000 feet/5,500 meters, you are at risk for acute mountain sickness, high-altitude pulmonary edema, high-altitude cerebral edema, frostbite, injuries due to trips and falls, and avalanches,” he said. 

“Providing nonstop, 24/7 medical emergency support for a massive number of people taking part in extreme, high-altitude activities is not for the faint of heart. You need to be flexible and physically fit to be efficient on the ground,” said David Koo, associate director of operations for Global Rescue, a former combat medic and emergency nurse, and a member of Global Rescue’s Mountain Advisory Council. 

 

Rescue operations are complicated and dangerous. The operating ceiling for most helicopters is about 22,000 feet, which is roughly Camp 2 on Mount Everest. “Anything above that altitude requires a ground rescue and because of the altitude and the limited oxygen, rescue teams have to acclimatize before going. You cannot simply drop a crew that isn’t acclimatized into this part of the mountain. That’s why we have acclimatized teams already there. Even then, a rescue is dicey,” Richards said. 

Contact Bill McIntyre at bmcintyre@globalrescue.com or 202.560.1195 (phone/text) for more information.

About Global Rescue 

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services to enterprises, governments and individuals. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Global Rescue has provided medical and security support to its clients, including Fortune 500 companies, governments and academic institutions, during every globally significant crisis of the last two decades. For more information, visit www.globalrescue.com. 


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