An American climber died while descending Mount Everest on Monday, bringing this year’s death toll on the mountain’s Nepali side to at least nine amid concerns of overcrowding on the summit.
A Nepalese official said Monday morning that 61-year-old Christopher John Kulish ascended the more than 29,000-foot peak by taking its Southeast Ridge route, but died suddenly while coming down, Reuters reported.
The cause of death remains unknown.
On Saturday, 44-year-old British climber Robin Haynes Fisher died in the mountain’s “death zone,” an area infamous for its low oxygen levels due to its altitude.
“He was descending with his sherpa guides from the summit when he suddenly fainted,” Murari Sharma, an employee of the Everest Parivar Treks expedition company that organized Fisher’s trip, said of the climber.
An Instagram post flagged by CNN shows that on May 19, days before his death, Fisher wrote that he was “hopeful to avoid the crowds on summit day and it seems like a number of teams are pushing to summit on the 21st.”
Overcrowding has become a major problem on Everest as climbers jump at the chance to make the trek when weather conditions are optimal.
An image captured on Wednesday by mountaineer Nirmal Purja gained international attention as it showed a massive line of people waiting to reach Everest’s summit.
According to The New York Times, veteran mountaineers and industry experts are sounding the alarm on the number of people on the peak, particularly those who are inexperienced.
Critics have argued the Nepalese government’s desire to cash in on the frenzy has led it to hand out more permits than the mountain can handle, making the journey especially risky.
Last week, Agence France-Presse reported that a record-breaking 381 permits had been issued for the 2019 spring climbing season, each costing $11,000. The influx prompted fears of traffic jams if bad weather cuts down on climbing days.