What is the Risk of Mount Everests Death Zone?

Have you ever considered going bungee jumping? How about skydiving from an airplane? Maybe you’re up for trying a human catapult. These recreational activities can be thrilling for some, while others find them frightening. If you’re looking for a sport with a hint of danger, you might enjoy mountain climbing.

Specifically, there are some thrill-seeking mountain climbers who take on the challenge of climbing Mount Everest. Standing at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level, it is the tallest mountain in the world. The first individuals to reach its summit were Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Since then, over 4,000 people have successfully reached the peak of the mountain.

To achieve this feat, climbers must enter the most perilous part of the mountain, known as the “death zone.” In order to prepare, climbers need to give their bodies time to acclimate to the higher altitude. That’s why they typically spend several weeks climbing Mount Everest, resting every few thousand feet. Once they reach 26,247 feet (8,000 meters), they have entered the death zone.

How dangerous is the death zone? At that altitude, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere drops by 40 percent. This makes it challenging for the human body to obtain the necessary oxygen. Combined with the physical exertion of climbing the mountain, this can be fatal. Some climbers have likened the experience to “running on a treadmill and breathing through a straw.”

Every cell in the body requires oxygen to perform its function. Therefore, the low-oxygen environment of the death zone poses a significant risk. It can have severe effects on the human body.

One of these risks is brain swelling, which can lead to high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). HACE can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and impaired thinking. In the death zone, climbers may forget their location or even experience hallucinations. This can make an already dangerous climb even more life-threatening.

Many climbers in the death zone experience high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Symptoms of HAPE include fluid accumulation in the lungs, fatigue, weakness, and a feeling of suffocation. Affected climbers may also have a persistent cough and may cough up white, frothy fluid.

Other dangers in the death zone include snow blindness and frostbite. Snow blindness refers to a temporary loss of vision caused by the glare from snow and ice. Frostbite can affect any exposed skin. The temperatures on Mount Everest are so extreme that skin can freeze instantly.

Mount Everest is not the only peak with a death zone. In fact, the world’s 14 highest mountains all have death zones. These mountains are located in the Himalaya and Karakoram Ranges on the Asian continent. Some passionate mountain climbers set a goal to conquer all 14 peaks.

Would you like to climb Mount Everest one day? How would you protect yourself from the death zone? Mountain climbing requires both skill and preparation. If you are interested in this sport, take the time to learn about important safety precautions today.

Give It a Try

Ready to learn more? Find an adult who can assist you in these enjoyable activities:

  • In recent times, a greater number of individuals have made attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest than at any other point in history. As a result, there is now an issue of overcrowding in the death zone. What is it that makes this situation so perilous? How would you propose solving this problem? Engage in a discussion with a friend or family member regarding this matter.
  • Are you interested in the sport of mountain climbing? Begin by familiarizing yourself with these safety tips. How can individuals ensure their safety while scaling mountains? Provide a summary of what you have read for a friend or family member.
  • Envision yourself embarking on your first-ever climb up Mount Everest. What emotions would you be experiencing? Who would accompany you on this journey? What exciting adventures might await you? What can be expected in the death zone? Compose a brief story detailing what this experience would be like, and feel free to let your creativity flow!

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/08/26/mount-everest-summit-success-rates-double-death-rate-stays-the-same-over-last-30-years/ (accessed 11 Nov. 2020)
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/mount-everest-death-zone-what-happens-to-body-2019-5 (accessed 11 Nov. 2020)
  • https://theconversation.com/everest-i-interviewed-people-risking-their-lives-in-the-death-zone-during-one-of-the-deadliest-seasons-yet-118427 (accessed 11 Nov. 2020)
  • https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 11 Nov. 2020)


1. How high is Mount Everest’s Death Zone?

The Death Zone on Mount Everest is located above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) and is known as the area where the oxygen levels are so low that they are not sufficient to sustain human life for an extended period of time. It is estimated that the Death Zone starts at around 8,000 meters and continues until the summit at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet).

2. What are the risks of climbing in the Death Zone?

Climbing in the Death Zone poses numerous risks due to the extreme altitude and low oxygen levels. Some of the risks include altitude sickness, hypothermia, frostbite, snowstorms, avalanches, and the possibility of falling into crevasses. The lack of oxygen also increases the chances of developing High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which are life-threatening conditions.

3. How long can climbers stay in the Death Zone?

Due to the extreme conditions, climbers can only stay in the Death Zone for a very limited amount of time. Most climbers aim to spend as little time as possible in this zone to minimize the risks associated with high altitude. On average, climbers spend only a few hours at the summit before descending back to lower altitudes where the oxygen levels are higher.

4. How many climbers have died in the Death Zone?

Since the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, hundreds of climbers have lost their lives in the Death Zone. The exact number is difficult to determine, but estimates suggest that over 300 climbers have died in the Death Zone. The treacherous conditions, unpredictable weather, and the challenges posed by extreme altitude make it one of the most dangerous areas in the world for mountaineering.

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