Mt. Everest "Traffic Jam" Proves Deadly
By JON CAMPISI, who has been a writer and editor for a number of media outlets in the Philadelphia area.
The fact that three people died and two others were listed as missing in late May after descending from the summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, was undoubtedly tragic, but predictable, to a degree. Given the harsh conditions on the natural formation and the varying skill and fitness levels of climbers, it's no surprise that some don't make it out of the trek alive.
Everest has been climbed by nearly 3,000 people from 20 countries since 1922, according to Lloyd's. More than 200 of those climbers died.
Insurers of the adventurers who took it upon themselves to scale the 29,035-plus-foot mountain also feel the loss but continue to insure Everest climbers on a case-by-case basis.
"Naturally these mammoth personal achievements come with different degrees of risks," David Stirling, of Lloyd's broker Crispin Spears, said in a statement on the Lloyd's website before the most recent deadly day on the mountain. "Underwriters look for details of the climbers' experience, their health, as well as personal details like age. Bespoke coverage, benefits, terms and conditions are set per case."
Not surprisingly, coverage can be expensive, and will most likely be accompanied with emergency medical, evacuation and repatriation expenses in assisting to get a climber down a mountain, into the care of medical personnel, and, eventually, home, according to Lloyd's.
Even if climbers are experienced and well-prepared, "the risks are still significant," Stirling said in his statement.
The three dead and two missing in the latest incident occurred the weekend of May 19 and 20 during an expedition in which 150 climbers attempted to reach Everest's peak.
The lost climbers were believed to have suffered from exhaustion and altitude sickness, the Associated Press reported.
"There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m., which is quite dangerous," Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha told the AP.
Shrestha said climbers are normally advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. since the oxygen level is low at that point in the day.
The deadliest day on Everest was May 10, 1996, when eight people were killed. The cause of death was attributed to the fact that the climbers, who started their ascent late in the day, got caught up in a snowstorm during the afternoon.
Climbers and environmentalists say that global warming has led to a lack of snow on Everest's mountaintop contributes to more rock slides and increasingly difficult climbing. In turn, losses could begin to grow.
For those like Lloyd's, who take on high risks such as Everest climbers, underwriting for this risk will continue to require a great deal of granularity.
"The reality is that standard, off-the-shelf products catered to the masses and more unique risks need that little bit of extra care and attention coupled with a willingness of underwriters to accept more hazardous risks," Stirling, the broker, states on the Lloyd's website.
As for additional costs, Katherine "Katie" Tarbox, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, marathon runner and author who has climbed both Kilimanjaro and Everest, wrote in a January 23, 2012 article for Time Moneyland
that insurance isn't the only thing that hurts a climber's wallet.
There's the training, which can tally $8,000, the gear, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000, the mountain permit, also likely to come with a price tag of $10,000, and the extras, such as roaming cell phone charges.
All told, Tarbox wrote, an Everest trek can cost anywhere between $35,000 to $100,000.
June 11, 2012
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