'It’s pandemonium up there.' Filmmaker Elia Saikaly says as Mount Everest climbers step over dead body after an eleventh person dies in just 10 days.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on May 28, 2019

Mount Everest mountaineers have climbed over a dead body and continued their ascent, leading a filmmaker to question humanity.

“Death. Carnage. Chaos,” wrote Canadian Elias Saikaly on his Instagram account.

“People are stepping over a body. You look around and see how people are dealing with that and you realise that people are not dealing with reality because they can’t.

“It’s just so confusing. So they just carry on. It’s when you get back down that you start asking yourself the question: Is it worth it? What is this whole industry about?”

Saikaly was filming an expedition of four Arab women — Joyce Azzam and Nelly Attar of Lebanon, Nadhira Alharthy of Oman and Mona Shahab of Saudi Arabia — who reached the summit with Saikaly and a team of Sherpas early last Thursday morning.

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The all powerful team of Arab women who successfully summited Mt. Everest. . Amidst all of the sensation and controversy of May 22nd and 23rd, these incredible women made climbing to the summit of Everest look easy. They powered past dozens and dozens of climbers in the dark, faced the unimaginable, in sub-zero temperatures, at 8848m, with the utmost grace and style. . From left to right we have Joyce Azzam who became the first Lebanese woman to complete the seven summits. . Nelly Attar, who became the second Lebanese woman to summit Mt. Everest. . Nadhira Alharthy, the first Omani woman to stand on top of the world. . Mona Shahab, the second Saudi Arabian woman to climb Mt. Everest. . And me, documenting it all, with my Everest summit number three, with my late Father Francois Saikaly who we lost far too early last July. Born and raised in Lebanon, son of Elia Saikaly Sr., he was always so proud of all that I set my mind and heart to. So this one's for you Dad. . @alharthynoor @joyceazzam7s @nellyattar @monakshahab – You're pioneers of all that is possible and role models for all of the dreamers out there who dream the wildest of dreams. Looking forward to sharing your stories in 'The Dream of Everest' documentary. . . #Everest #summitclimb #8848 #topoftheworld #nepal #everest2019 #himalayas #earth #adventure #explore #travel #thedreamofeverest #Lebanon #Oman #SaudiArabia #Canada #Nepal #Khumbu #Hijab #eliasaikaly #arabsxeverest2019 #shemovesmountains @mbc1 @natgeoabudhabi @discovery @questarabiya @futuretvlebanon @lbcilebanon @mtvlebanon @oman.news

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Two hundred climbers headed for the summit that day, many of whom were ill-prepared, ill-equipped and physically unfit for the challenge. It was, in Saikaly’s words, a “real shit show.”

“Within 20 minutes we saw a climber being brought down in a stretcher. Within 60 minutes, we see a climber being brought down by a couple of sherpas completely delirious. You don’t know really what’s going on but it seems the person has a serious case of acute mountain sickness,” he said.

“But you keep going up, in a huge lineup. And within 2 1/2 hours, there’s a deceased climber attached to an anchor. Every single person had to climb over that body. It’s quite disturbing.”

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Eleven people have died in 10 days on the world’s highest peak in Nepal. They include four climbers from India, two from the US and one each from the UK and Nepal. An Irish mountaineer is presumed dead after he slipped and fell close to the summit.

Another Austrian and an Irish climber died on the northern Tibet side. One of the Indians who died on the Nepal side, 27-year-old Nihal Bagwan, had to wait for more than 12 hours and died on his way back from the summit. American Donald Lynn Cash, 55, collapsed at the summit as he took photographs.

The latest confirmed death was that of 62-year-old American climber Christopher John Kulish, 62, who died shortly after getting to the top of Mount Everest. He had achieved his dream of scaling the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, his brother said overnight.

Kulish, a lawyer, died at a camp below the summit during his descent.

“He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth. At that instant, he became a member of the ‘7 Summit Club,’ having scaled the highest peak on each continent,” his brother said in a statement.

Anjali Kulkarni, 55, died while descending after reaching the top. Kulkarni’s expedition organiser, Arun Treks, said heavy traffic at the summit had delayed her descent and caused the tragedy.

“She had to wait for a long time to reach the summit and descend,” said Thupden Sherpa. “She couldn’t move down on her own and died as Sherpa guides brought her down.”

An unnamed Australian climber has been rescued by Tibetan alpine specialists after being found unconscious on the northern slopes of Mount Everest.

The man was experiencing health problems at an altitude of 7,500 metres when he was discovered on Wednesday by a four-person mountaineering crew returning from repair work, The China Daily reported.

The team used a riding yak to help move the climber to a base camp. He was then taken to a hospital in Kathmandu where his condition has since improved. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to the man.

Saikaly said the situation on Everest is a “disaster”.

“It’s pandemonium up there,” he wrote. “A couple of the women pulled their masks off and said to me, ‘Where’s the summit?’ and I had to say, ‘Do you not see the 50 people ahead of us standing there?’ There were so many people and everyone’s competing for that same spot. I didn’t even bother stepping up there this time.

“There’s such beauty on one level. These Arab women crushed it up there. They summited with class, with grace, with dignity. And the juxtaposition with so many people ill-prepared, unfit, disorganised, coupled with the traffic and the deaths.

“On the one hand, it’s your passion. And on the other hand, it’s a disaster. You ask yourself, why?”