May is one of the peak months for summiting Everest, and hundreds of climbers all push for the summit around the same time. On May 22, there were 200 climbers attempting to reach the summit. Fifty-five-year-old American Don Cash was one of them, and after a 12-hour final push, he reached the top with the two Sherpas accompanying him.
During the descent, Cash lost consciousness. The two Sherpas revived him with CPR and moved him down to a rock formation called Hillary Step, 200 feet below the summit. Hillary Step is a steep snow slope that can easily bottleneck when there are multiple people climbing or descending the summit at the same time. When Cash arrived at Hillary Step, he was forced to wait for two hours before continuing the descent. During this wait, he passed out again and his Sherpas were unable to revive him.
Cash’s cause of death is unknown, and unfortunately his isn’t the first life Everest has claimed this season. Ravi Thakar of India died after summiting the mountain, and Seamus Sean Lawless of Ireland disappeared after his summit and is presumed dead from a fall.
Perishing on Everest is hardly a new phenomenon, and dying due to the overcrowded nature of the mountain is tragic. The bottleneck at Hillary Step shows just how crowded Everest has become, and while the presence of other hikers may give climbers a sense a solidarity, as Don Cash proved, it can also be deadly.