Record-breaking crowds of mountaineers, trekkers and support teams will be in the Himalayan region for the 2024 spring climbing season, and many will need rescue services. For the 12th consecutive year, Global Rescue has deployed a team of specialists to Nepal to perform airborne and ground rescue operations and transports, to assist with hospital admissions and to look after those admitted to a hospital for care.  

“About 600 climber permits have been issued for Mount Everest, a 30% increase over last year’s record of 463 permits distributed,” said Dan Stretch, a Global Rescue operations manager coordinating rescue activities for Nepal during the Mount Everest climbing season. Stretch has performed more than 500 evacuations and crisis response operations in the Himalayas.


Global Rescue mountain rescue medic Dan Stretch standing on site in the Himalayas.
Dan Stretch, Global Rescue operations manager, who oversees rescues in Nepal during the 2024 Mount Everest climbing season.

Adding to the potentially crowded conditions on Mount Everest will be an additional 100 mountaineers attempting to summit from the Tibetan side.  

“For the first time in several years, Chinese authorities have opened up the Tibet side to 100 climbers. When you consider that each climber generally comes with support personnel and climbing sherpas there will likely be close to 2,000 people climbing Mount Everest this season,” Stretch said. 

Crowded conditions can lead to an increase in rescue operations.  

“Overcrowding at high altitudes means more mountaineers exposed for prolonged periods in the death zone, and that increases the likelihood of climbers experiencing altitude sickness, frostbite and exhaustion,” Stretch said. 

During the two-month 2024 Mount Everest spring climbing season, there will usually be several rescue operations performed each day, keeping the deployment team busy from before dawn until nearly midnight. “The busiest time is the two-week Mount Everest summit window when the medical and rescue operations team performs up to 25 rescues a day,” Stretch said. 


A mountain rescue medic attends to a rescued climber in a helicopter on the ground.


High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), frostbite, gastrointestinal trouble, high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), snow blindness and many other ailments will challenge climbers and trekkers at every step, uphill and down.  

Recovering climbers and trekkers is much more than a high-altitude mountain chopper rescue. Performing a rescue includes helicopter and ambulance transports, hospital admissions and looking after individuals admitted to a hospital for care. 

“The Global Rescue deployment team members are located in multiple areas to support individuals throughout their rescue, transport, recovery and safe return home,” Stretch said. 


A mountain climber rescued via helicopter lands at a hospital with medical staff attending.


Airborne helicopter rescues will be a challenge this year, according to Stretch. “The Nepalese civil aviation authorities are limiting pilots’ daily flying hours. It’s an important factor. Climbers should train and prepare to rely on themselves in the event helicopter rescues are limited,” Stretch advised. 


A helicopter pilot surveys the mountain terrain below from inside the cockpit.


The weather in the mountains is extreme and can change quickly. The on-the-ground Global Rescue team monitors weather and receives daily reports from our helicopter providers to help establish the efficacy and safety of any helicopter rescue. There are times when adverse weather can prevent or delay helicopter flights. During these times we rely on ground rescue or have members shelter in place until the weather clears. 

Avalanches are always a risk, too, and rescue operations following them are complicated due to the instability of the snowpack, making efforts volatile. 


Planes waiting to take mountain climbers to their destination.


Participation in mountaineering, trekking and other high-altitude activities has seen rapid increases in recent years. Expedition leaders have noted that many climbers are avoiding Mount Everest and focusing on other 8,000+ meter mountains to avoid the crowds. Global Rescue has increased its capabilities to provide emergency services in more regions, committing to longer deployments of our medical operations personnel, and extending our in-field rescue operational durations.