Two Climbers Missing, Presumed Dead, on Everest

A pair of Mongolian climbers have been missing for nearly three days in the death zone on Mt. Everest.

Two Climbers Missing, Presumed Dead, on Everest
CREDIT: Vyacheslav Argenberg

Two Mongolian climbers, Prevsuren Lkhagvajav and Usukhjargal Tsedendamba, have disappeared on Mount Everest (8,848 m), after leaving Camp IV (7,950m) for the summit Sunday night.

Tsedendamba (53) and Lkhagvajav (31), were reportedly climbing without guides or support as part of a nine-member Mongolian team. They had hired services at Base Camp from outfitter 8K Expeditions, and had purchased (but did not plan to use) bottles of supplementary oxygen.

The pair's last radio contact with Base Camp occurred shortly after 7:00 p.m. on May 12. They hoped to reach the summit and return the following morning, but sources indicate they chose to leave their radio at Camp IV when making their summit push.

On the morning of the 13th Tsedendamba and Lkhagvajav were sighted at distance en-route to the summit by another party, but after this were never seen or heard from again. They have now been missing for nearly three days.

The elevations in question—above the death zone—are too high for an aerial search by helicopter, and an onslaught of foul weather has stymied ground efforts. Two Sherpa climbers sent to Camp IV by 8K Expeditions were trapped there amid ensuing storms, and a larger SAR effort has yet to make headway. "We are waiting for weather to improve to send the search team above base camp,” 8K's Pemba Sherpa told Everest Chronicle.

8K reported that the climbers were seemingly experienced, and rebuffed offers for assistance. "They were confident about their skill and strength. They told us that they were professional climbers and need no Sherpa support,” added managing director Lakpa Sherpa. "We even offered them our guides for free, but they turned down the request."

Though Everest saw a rapid-fire slew of summits after the route from the South Col was opened last Saturday, no climbers have managed to summit in the last two days (since Tsedendamba and Lkhagvajav have been missing) due to the poor conditions. Some sources have reported wind speeds cresting 80 kmh.

"It would be miraculous if we found them alive," an anonymous official told Chronicle. "No climber, as far as I can remember, has survived for so long at that altitude."

Missing Mongolian climbers Prevsuren Lkhagvajav and Usukhjargal Tsedendamba.
Missing climbers Prevsuren Lkhagvajav (left) and Usukhjargal Tsedendamba (right). CREDIT: Everest Chronicle

If Lkhagvajav and Tsedendamba are indeed deceased, their deaths will mark the third and fourth of the 2024 8,000-meter season, still in its early days.

This latest tragedy comes just after a French climber, 60-year-old Johnny Saliba, died during his Sunday summit push on Makalu (8,485m). "We were told that he had complained of illness at 8,350 meters during his summit push,” Madhu Prasad, his liason officer, told Everest Chronicle. Prasad indicated that altitude sickness was likely the cause of death.

Saliba's death was the second on the mountain. Lakpa Tenji, a Seven Summits Sherpa, died at Camp III last week. The 53-year-old summited the mountain alongside 11 others on May 6, but passed away on the descent due to unclear health issues.

Over 400 climbers (not including Sherpas) have permits to summit Everest this year, and there have been over 1,000 permits issued for 8,000-meter peaks in Nepal.