Colorado climber on way to summit of Mt. Everest

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MT. EVEREST, Nepal — Colorado mountain climber Dr. Jon Kedrowski is making a second attempt to climb to the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

Kedrowski, of Avon, Colo., and his small group are making a speed ascent to reach the top and get back down by Saturday. Officials in Nepal predict Saturday will be the last day of the climbing season on Mt. Everest. They say 82 people made it to the top Friday.

Kedrowski told his friend and climbing partner meteorologist Chris Tomer in a telephone conversation that he’s making the trek with two very fast Sherpa and guide Arnold Coster.

Tomer says weather is favorable and the four will have 12-24 hours to get up and back down. They will start their climb from Camp 4 at about 26,000 feet above sea level. The summit of Mt. Everest is 29,035 feet. For perspective, Colorado’s highest mountain, Mt. Elbert, is 14,433 feet.

The small group plans to skip two intermediate camps during their fast climb to the top of Everest. Kedrowski told Tomer the group will dial up the oxygen flow to help.

Kedrowski said Tuesday that word at base camp at Mt. Everest was 11 climbers may have died this season.

He was not able to reach the summit of the world’s tallest mountain on his first attempt as severe weather trapped numerous climbers near the top during a 48-hour window last Saturday and Sunday.

Monday he shared the story about how he and others tried to help four climbers near the summit Sunday. Efforts to save those climbers were unsuccessful.

He says the weather changed as many climbers went to the summit on Saturday, May 19.

100 mph winds moved in and trapped dozens of climbers. Jon was ascending while others were descending from 18-hour climbs to the summit.

They were exhausted, sick from altitude, hallucinating, frostbitten, and disoriented.

Jon came upon four folks on the verge of death and tried to assist. “I counted four people that had either died that evening or probably got disoriented or basically passed out from their summit attempts on the 19th,” he says.

“Once you’re above 26,000 feet, the body deteriorates so fast that if you’re not with a big group of people that can help you there’s really nothing you can do.”

“[One man] was basically hallucinating, he took his hat off, his gloves were thrown away and then he kind of reached out and looked at me … he kind of reached out to me, kind of in a zombie-like fashion,” Kedrowski says. “At that point, there’s not a lot you can do for somebody that’s dying and frozen to death.”

Another person was lying face-down in the snow with his/her headlamp still on.  Another person was so sick, Jon and a Sherpa stuck that guy with a needle full of DEX (Altitude drug). Everyone had their oxygen masks strapped on.

The four victims Kedrowski tried to help are Ebehard Schaaf, 61, a German medical doctor; Sriya Shah, 33, a Nepali-born Canadian woman; Song Wondin, a 44-year-old man from South Korea; and Wen Ryi Ha, 55, of China, according to officials with the tourism and civil aviation ministry and at the base of the mountain.

He told Tomer Friday more details about the events of May 19 and May 20. “After attempting to rescue four climbers near the summit, more folks needed my help near Camp 4.” Read more in Jon Kedrowski’s Mt. Everest blog.

There were 32 teams on Everest made up of 337 climbers and 400+ Sherpa on the Khumbu Icefall route to the summit, which is 29,035 feet above sea level. That’s the route Kedrowski is taking.

May is a popular time for climbers to try to reach the summit of Everest since there are long enough windows of opportunity when the weather allows the ascent.