Four climbers were killed last weekend on their way down from the top of Mount Everest.Their deaths, in part, are being blamed on a “traffic jam” as roughly 150 climbers looking to take advantage of a short window of clear weather scrambled to summit of the 29,035-foot mountain.
Longer waits that forced people to spend more time than usual at higher altitudes is believed to have contributed to the climbers’ deaths. They are thought to have suffered from exhaustion and altitude sickness, according to officials.
But the inherent dangers associated with Mount Everest’s extreme environment (i.e thin air, extreme cold, treacherous terrain) is only part of what makes the climb so dangerous.
According to Jeff Wise, a science writer and author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, there’s also a psychological phenomenon at play, which he calls “mind trap.”
In the final push to the summit, climbers must abide by the “red line,” or a specific turn-around time before their oxygen runs out. But the intense pressure to reach the top can warp our ability to think clearly, causing small errors in judgement to turn into fatal mistakes.
Wise writes on his blog.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to think: I’ll just go over a little bit. What difference will it make? The problem is that once we go over the red line, there are no more boundaries. Nothing’s calling you back to the safe side. And in a brutally tough environment like Everest, once mother nature’s jaws slam shut, there may be no one to help you.
Despite the deaths and danger, another batch of about 200 climbers are expected to make an attempt to scale the summit this weekend.
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