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What is Everest’s “Death Zone”, And Why Do So Many Lose Their Lives Here? 

A South Australian man Jason Kennison made it to the top of Mount Everest but didn’t come back. 

The 40-year-old died of high altitude cerebral edema (HAC), an emergency in which brain swelling occurs because of high altitude.

The “death zone”, referring to altitudes over eight thousand meters, is the deadliest section of the mountain and holds the highest fatality rate for climbers.

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So what happens to the body when we enter higher altitudes? On today’s Briefing, Dr Deirdre McCormack explains the risks of climbing Everest.

Dr McCormack has completed postgraduate studies in mountain sickness and volunteered at Everest Base Camp with the Himalayan Rescue Association.

I was very upset and very saddened to hear about this young man’s demise. My heart goes out to both his family and his friends and all those known to him, specially those who shared the climbing experience with him in Nepal,”

Dr McCormack said.

She said the oxygen was so limited in the death zone that the body cells started to die, and judgment would be impaired.

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This gentleman did have his supplemental oxygen. And I can understand the unpredictability of the weather at that altitude as well. The winds, the temperatures, the visibility,”

she added.

She said when parts of the brain were deprived of oxygen, the cells would be unable to function or perform what they normally would and could result in life-threatening conditions.

It sounds like those two Sherpas were faced with a very difficult risk trade-off on whether they should have gone back up from Camp Four to try and rescue Jason,”

The Briefing host Tom Tilley said.

Dr McCormack said it was a “very difficult decision to make”. Sherpa climbers and their teams would be very familiar with the mountain environment and overall have skilful experience managing both themselves and visitors.

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