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Three more dead on Everest amid overcrowding concerns

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By Saphora Smith with NBC News World News
Image: NEPAL-MOUNTAINEERING-EVEREST
Climbers line up near the summit of Mount Everest on May 22, 2019. Many teams had to line up for hours on May 22 to reach the summit, risking frostbites and altitude sickness, as a rush of climbers marked one of the busiest days on the world's highest mo   -   Copyright  Project Possible AFP - Getty Images
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LONDON — The deaths of three more climbers on Mount Everest have raised concerns that a traffic jam of mountaineers near the summit is making the ascent even more treacherous.

Officials and mountaineering agencies confirmed to NBC News Friday that three Indian nationals died on Thursday while trying to climb the world's highest mountain, which sits on the border of Nepal and Tibet, an autonomous region of South-west China.

Nihal Bagwan, 27, died after collapsing from exhaustion on the balcony area of the mountain where he was waiting in a line to reach the summit, according to Krishma Poudel of Peak Promotion, a mountaineering agency in Nepal.

Anjali Kulkarni, 54, and Kalpana Das, 49, also died while descending the mountain on Wednesday, according to Mira Acharya, the director of Nepal's Department of Tourism. Their cause of deaths is not yet known, she added.

The news comes after it was confirmed that an American man from Utah also died on Wednesday having reached the summit and fulfilling his life's dream, his children told NBC affiliate KSL-TV. Don Cash, 55, was a passionate climber who had left his job to join the "Seven Summits Club," — in which climbers attempt to summit the highest mountain on every continent.

Don Cash died this week on Mount Everest. The 55-year-old had just completed his goal of reaching the summit of the highest mountain on every continent.
Don Cash died this week on Mount Everest. The 55-year-old had just completed his goal of reaching the summit of the highest mountain on every continent.

Five climbers have died on Mount Everest since the beginning of the climbing season which started on May 14, according to Acharya. She said the fifth climber was a 28-year-old Indian national, Mr. Ravi, who died on May 17.

Tweeting a picture of along line of climbers waiting to get to the summit on Wednesday, the British broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle, the U.N. Patron of the Wilderness, called on the countries that share Everest to limit the number of climbers on the mountain suggesting instead for a marathon-style lottery system for climbing permits.

Since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the mountain in 1953, attempting the 29,029 ft peak has become more and more popular. Expeditions can cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to the British Mountaineering Council.

Poudel explained the mountain was busy during peak season. "There's a long queue during the summertime as there's a limited window to climb — a lot of people tried to summit yesterday and day before," she said, using a British word for line.

Poudel said that lines to reach the summit started from the balcony area of the mountain but said she did not know how long Bagwan had been waiting there. "Before you reach the summit you have to wait and every minute counts at the height," she explained, but cautioned that she could not say if waiting there had caused Bagwan's death.

"You've been walking since 8 a.m. the day before without eating or a proper rest and exposed to that temperature there's a high risk of being frostbitten and hypothermia," she added.

Poudel said that Bagwan was barely conscious when Sherpas brought him down to Camp 4 — the last pit-stop ahead of what is commonly referred to as the "death zone" before the summit. He died there at around 11.30 p.m. Wednesday night, she added.

She would not comment on whether officials should limit the number of climbers on the mountain but acknowledged that if there were fewer people it would reduce the risk that they suffer from exhaustion in the line. "Waiting for hours at that kind of height really takes a toll," she said.

Acharya, of the Department of Tourism, said she could not comment on the question of whether the lines were dangerous for climbers.