The 11th person to die on a crowded Mount Everest this climbing season was a Colorado lawyer who had just achieved his dream of reaching the top of the highest peak on each continent.
Christopher John Kulish, 62, was just descending from the summit when he died; the cause was unclear, but others have perished of altitude sickness at that level.
“He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth. At that instant, he became a member of the ‘7 Summit Club,’” his brother, Mark Kulish, said in a statement.
The brother said Kulish had been climbing for 50 years. “He passed away doing what he loved,” he said in the statement obtained by the Denver News. “We are heartbroken at this news.”
Authorities have said many of the deaths in recent weeks were likely caused by exhaustion, since a record 381 people have been allowed to scale the mountain from the Nepalese side this year and another 130 people have climbed Everest from Tibet, Reuters reports.
The climbing season lasts from March through May, and the good weather this year has increased crowds, as climbers try to work their way up and down the summit in a single file line at 29,000 feet.
“I have had bottlenecks on mountains before but not this many people at such high altitude,” Nirmal Purja, a climber who took a photo of the precarious-looking crowds, told the The New York Times.
A tour group’s manager for Arun Treks and Expedition blamed the death last week of 54-year-old Indian woman Anjali Kulkarni on the overcrowding, according to the Times.
“Due to the huge traffic yesterday and the delay in being able to return back, she couldn’t maintain her energy,” Thupden Sherpa told the newspaper.
A British climber who died of altitude sickness on Saturday even warned of the dangers of overcrowding on his last ever Instagram post, and a Canadian documentarian who summited Everest last week used the social media site to post a photo of a dead body he passed on his trek, calling it “horrific.”
“Here we all were, chasing a dream and beneath our very feet there was a lifeless soul,” he wrote. “Is this what Everest has become?”