Who survived climbing Mount Everest?

Mount Everest: a life-threatening place of longing

Deutsche Welle: At 8,848 meters, Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth and therefore of course also an attraction for many mountaineers. You climbed it too. When was it?

Dominik Müller: The last time I was at the Everest summit with customers was in 2017 and my company has already organized the ascent of Everest several times over both routes and has it in its program - we have now decided to only go from the north side go, due to the dangers that have increased on the south side - which is also related to the increasing number of climbers. It is of course a very, very nice feeling when you know that you are at the highest point on earth and you can't get any higher.

In May of this year alone - this is the main climbing season - eleven people were killed trying to conquer Mount Everest. Why is that?

Mountain guide Dominik Müller knows about the fascination and the dangers of Mount Everest

There are just more people around. The mountain can cope with that. But the main problem is that permits [permits to climb, note d. Red.] Are issued to people who simply have far too little experience and who then have to slow down on technically more difficult passages so that they can overcome these passages. And that often leads to these traffic jams. Everest is not one of the heaviest eight-thousanders we have. But because of the height, it is very attractive. It is the highest mountain on earth and there are people out and about - as a blatant example - who sometimes learn to use crampons for the first time in base camp. And that's where the traffic jams come from, which ultimately doom everyone else.

What do people die of: from lack of oxygen or do they fall or freeze to death?

As well ... as. The main cause is likely exhaustion. Exhaustion is accompanied by hypothermia if you are stuck somewhere in a traffic jam because you can no longer move. And with this exhaustion, when you run out of oxygen in a traffic jam, things get tight. If the provider's security concept and logistics are not right, then I don't have any replacement oxygen or other things nearby. Then I die of altitude sickness.

No polonaise, but a dangerous traffic jam on Mount Everest

Is it correct that one has to step over corpses when climbing?

So not directly over corpses. But it is like this: On both routes - north and south side - there are people a few meters from the track in the high altitude. And it's very, very difficult, or sometimes almost impossible, to get that down. In addition, it is of course also a financial expense. Who would pay the cost of this rescue? But it is correct: you get very close to corpses.

One area on Mount Everest is called the "death zone". Where exactly is it and why is it called that?

The "death zone" begins between 7500 and 7800 meters. Without artificial oxygen, we can only survive for a few hours or days. We are not made for this height. There is a constant disintegration up there. We can no longer recover or regenerate. We can no longer ingest anything either, the gastrointestinal activity goes down. That is why it is the "death zone". And of course because of the wind and the cold. Several factors play together in this "death zone".

W.hat would it mean if, for example, I broke my leg up there? How could I be saved from there?

Not by helicopter, as many might imagine. The maximum height at which we can fly a rescue will be at the moment at 7500 to 7800 meters, i.e. below the last camp from which we go towards the summit. I am on the help of others and of course on the help of the Sherpas [locals who know the area who help the mountaineers with ascent and descent for a fee, editor's note. Red.] Instructed. On the subject of helping others: The Sherpas are very strong, they help there too. But what one generally notices: the aid provided to high-altitude mountaineers is decreasing - perhaps also a mirror of our society. Everyone wants to achieve their own goal and then it is very difficult to put your own goal, the summit, behind the scenes: 'I will do without the summit. But this person is me, who I may not know, who has a problem now, he is more important to me and I want to help this person or the person down. '

We have clearly seen in the last few years that togetherness has decreased and everyone only focuses on their goal, on the summit, and in the truest sense of the word may even let others die.

So far, a total of 8,000 people are said to have reached the summit and 300 people have died in the process. There are currently holding ropes for mountaineers in some places. And Nepal plans to build another rope route by 2020. How would that change the situation on Mount Everest?

We have two routes. The two routes come together at the Everest summit from the Tibetan side and from the Nepalese side. Fixed ropes are laid over the key points on both routes so that if you stumble or slip, you don't fall into the depths. If I only have one rope and someone comes towards me, then both are secured to this rope. Someone has to hang out, you have to get past each other. And now there are plans to lay two rope routes on the Nepalese side in the summit area where these traffic jams have formed - one for the ascent and one perhaps a meter away for the descent. Then that would straighten out. I think the death toll will then decrease. And let's hope that the traffic jam situation will improve too.

So close to the clouds: the summit of Mount Everest is the highest point on earth

What do you actually do when you are upstairs?

You enjoy the whole thing. It's an amazing feeling - for us leaders too. Many always ask: Why are you doing this to yourself? But if you see the glow in people's eyes on a summit, then half of it is done and at the latest in the base camp, then the champagne cork can pop and then you can celebrate when you have everything behind you. You have to imagine: You have trained for months and have accepted hardships. And when the big goal is reached, then of course a big burden falls off the people and the joy outweighs them.

Do you want to climb Mount Everest again?

Of course. Very likely next year. We already have several customers for the ascent to Everest. It's just a beautiful mountain - anytime again.

Interview conducted by Marco Müller.


Dominik Müller is a certified mountain and ski guide from Oberstdorf in the very south of Germany. He is expedition leader and head of the company "Amical Alpin", with which he offers expeditions, trekking tours and alpine tours around the world, including on Mount Everest.