A Central Washington University geography professor has been assisting fellow climbers on Mount Everest in Nepal.
Jon Kedrowski was at base camp Monday, recovering from an attempt Sunday to ascend the summit. He and his team have been blogging from base camp, and he reported high winds trapped people who were ascending and descending. Some people had already been climbing for 18 hours or more. Kedrowski assisted some climbers who were disoriented, frostbitten, sick, and totally exhausted.
The Associated Press reported that three people died and two went missing while descending from the summit over the weekend, raising concerns about overcrowding on the world's tallest peak. An estimated 150 climbers tried to reach the summit over the weekend during a window of good weather, according to the AP.
The three who died are a German doctor, a Nepal-born Canadian and a South Korean mountaineer. The missing climbers are a Chinese national and a Nepalese Sherpa guide. They appeared to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha told the AP.
"There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m., which is quite dangerous," Shrestha said.
Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at the South Col is nicknamed the "death zone" because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.
"With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent," Shrestha said.
Kedrowski and his team will again attempt to ascend the summit during the next good-weather window Friday and Saturday. Kedrowski is climbing with friends Dan Mazur and Arnold Coster, both with more than 20 years of Himalayan expedition experience.
During Kedrowski’s climb on Mount Everest, he will assist with research about the management of human waste. The climbers in Kedrowski’s team will pack their own waste off the mountain for proper disposal. Kedrowski also will collect samples of water along the climbing route to test for presence of fecal coliform.
Kedrowski recently completed a large-scale consulting project with National Geographic for a movie called “The Wildest Dream,” involving Mount Everest.
Kedrowski received a doctorate in environmental geography at Texas State University in 2010. His dissertation, "Climber Experience and Environmental Interaction on Mount Rainier," was a culmination of two summers spent working with the National Park Service, researching climber perceptions and permit-system management at Mount Rainier National Park.
Kedrowski has climbed many of the world’s highest mountains. He has ascended three of the world’s seven continental summits: Mount Elbrus, Russia in 2005; Denali, Alaska in 2009; and Aconcagua, Argentina in 2010. He reached the summit of Mount Rainier 14 times from 2008 to 2011, including two summits in one day.
In 2011, between June 23 to Sept. 28 — just 95 days — Kedrowski became the first person to camp and spend the night on the top of Colorado's 55 peaks that stand more than 14,000 feet. His book about the adventure, “Sleeping on the Summits: Colorado Fourteener High Bivys,” will be released in June.