Daily Archives: May 21, 2012

Three climbers die on Mount Everest

Three climbers died while descending from the summit of Mount Everest, Nepalese officials said on Monday.

Eberhard Schaaf, 61, from Aachen, Germany, who was climbing with the Eco Everest Expedition to remove decades-old garbage from the mountain, died on Saturday along the normal Southeast Ridge Route on the 29,035-foot peak.

Shriya Shah, a 32-year-old Nepal-born woman living in Canada, and a Korean, Song Won-Bin, also died while climbing down from the summit at the weekend, Tourism Ministry official Gyanendra Shrestha said.

“Schaaf died at the South Summit of Sagarmatha due to altitude sickness,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of the Asian Trekking company that organized the expedition, referring to the Nepali name of the mountain. South Summit is about 28,697 feet high.

He said the body was lying on the mountain and that Schaaf’s family as well as the German Embassy in Nepal had been informed.

“If the family wants the body to be brought down we will try, but it is very difficult to do so from that altitude,” Sherpa said.

Over the weekend, a 73-year-old Japanese woman improved her own record and climbed the peak for a second time at the weekend becoming the world’s oldest woman to scale the giant peak.

Related: 73-year-old smashes own record as oldest woman to climb Mount Everest

Two Sherpas have died so far this season — one after falling into a crevasse and the other reportedly from altitude sickness, according to National Geographic magazine.  At least 236 people have died climbing Everest since 1950.

The deaths mark an already controversial season on Everest. On May 5, Himalayan Experience announced that it was canceling its expedition because of safety concerns. Minimal snowpack and warm temperatures, among other factors, had led to dangerous conditions, including rock fall and avalanches, the company said.

Michael Fagin, who provides forecasting services for Everest teams and runs everestweather.com from Redmond, Wash., said the spring had been very dry and windy. In the past week, winds had reached up to 80 mph; climbers on Everest prefer them under 30 mph.

Eric Simonson, Himalayan program director of International Mountain Guides, told msnbc.com last week that to cancel an Everest expedition so early was “quite unprecedented,” but added it is unreasonable to expect every team to agree on how to handle difficult conditions.

“They’re betting on there being a problem and all the other expeditions that have stayed are betting on our ability to mitigate that problem. I don’t think it has to reflect poorly on anyone.”

Related: Climber’s sky-high dreams dashed far below Everest summit

Last week, the National Geographic-North Face expedition, led by accomplished mountaineer Conrad Anker, canceled its plans to summit via the West Ridge due to icy conditions, but will still attempt to reach the peak via a different route.

About 300 climbers remain on the mountain at different camps waiting for a window of good weather to try to climb the peak before the onset of annual monsoon rains next month, which effectively ends the climbing season in the Himalayas.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Rebecca Ruiz is a reporter at msnbc.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

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Fear factor: Strangest travel phobias

Patrick H. Lauke

Escalaphobia, the fear of escalators, can be tough to handle in Hong Kong’s moving stairwells. Built in 1993, the entire system covers more than 2,600 feet as it elevates over 443 feet from the Central to the Mid-Levels neighborhoods.

Disneyland’s Space Mountain is infamous for long lines, but the only visitors it literally scares away are those who suffer from macrophobia, the fear of waits.

Slideshow: Take at look the oddest travel phobias

Everyone has some kind of phobia, whether they admit it or not. Some are common and understandable such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), or the fear of flying, which plagues 6.5 percent of Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But other phobias … well, they’re downright quirky. We’ve rounded up the strangest phobias that can be associated with travel and matched each with a challenge — the place to avoid, or to visit only when ready to conquer that fear.

Seattle, for instance, would intimidate anyone with aichmophobia, the fear of pointed objects. Just thinking of the Space Needle would be the stuff of nightmares. Or consider Hong Kong, built along steep, lush hills. Locals came up with an ingenious solution for getting around: the world’s longest series of outdoor escalators, rising 443 feet during a 20-minute ride. But what’s cool and convenient for most is terrifying for those few with escalaphobia — and yes, that term really exists.

Nomophobia, on the other hand, gives a strange name to a travel-related fear that you’re more likely to have experienced: the sense of helplessness that comes with no cell phone contact, or even the anticipation of that situation. Donna Heckert of California’s Treebones Resort knows to alert potential guests to its lack of reception. “There’s a pay phone at the resort, or they can drive 15 minutes south,” she says. “If you have a phobia about being without your cell, the property is so beautiful it might make you forget about your fear.” 

If total withdrawal is too much, as with any fear, it helps to test the waters gradually. That’s advice even for those with limnophobia (fear of lakes), the only travelers who’d find the location of Migis Lodge — on the shores of Maine’s Sebago Lake — disturbing. “Our water is exceptionally clear,” says general manager Jed Porta. “On a very sunny day you can see 35 feet of depth, and we don’t have sea creatures or monsters to be frightened of.”

See, no monsters! That’s one fear resolved already.

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