It's a feat that commands mental tenacity, stealth, grit and determination.
But climbing Mount Everest is now being described as a 'death race' by those who have see the horrors of frozen dead bodies and people collapsing.
So far 11 have died this year – including a 44-year-old Brit from Birmingham – making 2019 one of the deadliest climbing seasons in history on the world's highest mountain, situated in Asia's Himalayas.
Climbers have told of how they have clambered over each other while abandoning bags and equipment on the narrow path in a desperate bid to reach the summit.
While others have been pushed and shoved by those wanting to take selfies.
Avalanches, extreme weather , lack of oxygen, falls, frostbite are what many deaths have been attributed to in the past.
However this year, fatalities have been blamed on too many people and inexperienced climbers.
The mountain has become bottlenecked with crowds lined up trying to reach the summit.
The intense 'traffic' was captured in a photograph taken on May 22 when many teams had to line up for hours, risking frostbites and altitude sickness.
Ed Dohring, a doctor from Arizona, had dreamed all his life of reaching the top, but when he did he was shocked by what he saw.
He even had to step around the body of a woman who had just died.
“It was scary,” he told the New York Times. “It was like a zoo.”
Rizza Alee, an 18-year-old climber from Kashmir, added to the publication: “I saw some people like they had no emotions.
“I asked people for water and no one gave me any. People are really obsessed with the summit. They are ready to kill themselves for the summit.”
In the wake of the spike of deaths, iconic mountaineer Um Hong-gil, who was honoured by the Nepal government for his Everest exploits, believes the number of climbers should be limited.
He said: “There should definitely be less permits issued and more experienced climbers on Everest."
Meanwhile, climbers and guides are blaming a host of other factors.
This year, the Nepalese government issued a record 381 permits to climb Everest, costing $11,000 (£8,675) each.
Climbers spoke of traffic jams below the summit, in the "death zone" above 8,000 metres where many deaths occur due to the lack of oxygen.
Some operators have urged the government to cut the number of permits, and raise the price to around $20,000 to combat increased crowds.
Adrian Ballinger of the U.S.-based company Alpenglow Expeditions said: "Confident climbers with experienced guides and sherpas would have known about the jam and waited for their chance to go up safely."
The above image taken a few weeks ago, shows climbers trapped with no turning back from the ridge.
Crowds is what adventurer and TV star Ben Fogle feared the most when he embarked on the climb last year.
He told the Daily Mail: "Of all its dangers – altitude, avalanches, crevasses, hypothermia – I feared crowds most. I knew the mountain attracted a large number of climbers from around the world but I had no idea of the nightmarish scale.
"Those making their descent had to wait hours to get past the slow-moving mass of climbers still ascending. No one could move faster than the slowest person. The extra hours could spell the difference between life and death.
"Your oxygen might run out. Altitude sickness might kill you. Frostbite could cost you your fingers, nose or ears."
There are 41 teams with a total of 378 climbers permitted to scale the mountain during the spring climbing season in Nepal that begins around March and ends this month.
An equal number of Nepalese guides are helping them get to the summit.
The number of inexperienced climbers has risen. There is no requirement from the Nepalese government to take an aptitude test or to climb smaller peaks before acquiring an Everest permit.
This has led to accidental deaths that are usually avoided by experienced climbers, guides said.
"They got into a situation that was beyond their ability," said Garrett Madison, from US-based Madison Mountaineering, on the experience level of some of those that died.
The Nepalese government has for the first time said it may reduce the number of permits given to climbers next year.
A government spokesperson told the Telegraph: "There are no such plans for now but there is possibility of doing so."
Lack of fitness
Some trekking companies perform health checks on prospective clients before beginning expeditions, but there is no mandatory requirement to do so.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, founder of Asian Trekking said: "Some agencies are more driven by their business and don't give emphasis on climbers' fitness and don't ensure that only experienced climbers and sherpas are sent to the mountain."
Lack of support
The rise of "low-cost" domestic firms, that in some cases offer expeditions at less than $35,000, half the price of more established rivals, creates incentives for cost-cutting, climbers said.
"They offer inadequate food and stay options which can be harmful," said Malay Mukherjee, an Indian climber, of some budget firms.
"And the most dangerous, in a bid to save costs, they pass off cooks as experienced sherpas."
There is no suggestion any of the companies mentioned in this article cut corners with its safety.
Heavy winds made climbing impossible on many days in May, traditionally the best month to climb Everest.
That led to a small window of only a few days where climbers could safely ascend, adding to the overcrowding.
"This time there was no strict monitoring or coordination among expeditions in preparing schedules for the summit," one sherpa said.
"This led everybody to rush as soon as there was good weather, crowding the route on the same day."
Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, died on his descent after reaching the summit of Everest.
Mr Fisher, who was born in Burton-upon-Trent and lived in Birmingham, is one of at least 11 climbers to die on its treacherous slopes in the past two weeks.
In an Instagram post days before his death, he revealed that he had changed his plans in an effort to avoid "fatal" crowds.
He was described as an "aspirational adventurer" who "lived life to the full" in a statement from his family.
They said: "He achieved so much in his short life, climbing Mont Blanc, Aconcagua and Everest.
"He was a 'tough guy', triathlete, and marathoner. A champion for vegetarianism, published author, and a cultured theatre-goer, lover of Shakespeare.
"We are deeply saddened by his loss as he still had so many more adventures and dreams to fulfil.
"Every one who ever met him in any capacity will always remember the positive impact he had on their lives.
"Robin is a much loved and loving son, brother, partner, uncle, and friend."
In a video shot on the expedition by Mr Fisher's partner, Kristyn Carriere, he is heard saying it "should be a trip to remember" as he looks up at the ascent from base camp.
Murari Sharma, managing director of Everest Parivar Expedition Pvt Ltd, said Mr Fisher and a sherpa reached the summit at around 8.30am on Saturday and had descended 150 metres when he fell unconscious.
A group of sherpas changed his oxygen bottle and tried to give him some water but he could not be revived, he said.
Mr Sharma added: "He was a great man and a good friend and all of us are very sad.
"Our deepest condolences to Mr Fisher's family, friends, and colleagues for their loss."
Irish climber Kevin Hynes, 56, died in his tent at 7,000 metres in the early hours of Friday after turning back before reaching the summit.
The father-of-two was part of a group from UK-based climbing company 360 Expeditions which was attempting to scale the world's highest mountain.
In a statement, 360 Expeditions said: "It is with the greatest sadness that we have to confirm that one of our Everest team has passed away.
"Kevin (56 yrs) was one of the strongest and most experienced climbers on our team, and had previously summited Everest South and Lhotse."
The company said Mr Hynes reached Camp 3 at 8,300 metres on Wednesday.
But on Thursday, while other climbers in the team headed higher, Mr Hynes began his descent accompanied by experienced Sherpa Dawa Sangee, who had himself made the summit of Everest South twice, Everest North and Makalu twice.
"Kevin passed away in his tent at the North Col at 7,000m in the early hours (Nepali time) of the 24th May," the company confirmed.
"His wonderful wife, Bernadette and two children, Erin and James are comforted by all the communication that Kevin sent out from his expedition, letting them know that, 'this was proving the most fun he had had on any one of his expeditions and the team was amazing and that he was loving being with (mountaineer) Rolfe Oostra'."
The company added: "Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences are with all Kevin's family and his friends. He really was a wonderful man and it was a great privilege to have him on our team."
His death comes a week after Trinity College professor Seamus (Shay) Lawless , aged 39 and from Bray, Co Wicklow, fell during his descent from the peak having achieved a lifetime ambition of reaching the summit.
The search for Mr Lawless has been called off.
At a service to remember him, the Irish Sun reports, a priest revealed Mr Lawless had sent a final text to pregnant wife Pamela.
Parish priest Fr Michael O'Kelly told the service in County Wicklow that "he'd done it, reached the summit and was coming home".
It was his ambition to climb Everest before he turned 40 this July.
His wife Pam, along with their four-year-old daughter Emma attended the memorial service, the Irish Mirror reports .
Close childhood friend Rob Ward said: “It was his dream to reach Everest. We (childhood friends) thought he was having a mid-life crisis when he said he wanted to climb Everest but since he was a teenager he spoke about mountains.
“None of us could really figure out what he did. We always likened him to various characters in shows such as Friends and the Big Bang Theory because he had brains to burn.
“During the past week, I had the chance to go through a book of previous memories his wife Pam has. It has stories of their hikes, playing and stories they did together as a family with Emma. Shay adored them and he told Emma, ‘Don’t go growing up on me. Keep staying the way you are until I come back.’
“It is fitting now that Shay’s final resting place is on top of the world. Rest in peace my friend.”
A Trinity statement said: "It is with deep sadness that we have learnt this evening that the search for our friend and colleague, Seamus (Shay) Lawless, has been unsuccessful.
"While the experienced search team has made every effort to locate Shay, the extremes of operating at high altitude and the sheer range of the search area ultimately proved too difficult and based on expert advice the Lawless family have decided to call off the search rather than risk endangering anyone's life in the treacherous conditions."
Meanwhile, American climber Christopher Kulish died on Monday after returning to the first camp below Mount Everest's summit.
His family believes the cause of the 62-year-old Colorado attorney's death was cardiac arrest, according to the Denver Post.
"He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth," his brother, Mark Kulish, said in a statement to The Denver Post. "We are heartbroken at this news."
Donald Cash, 55, a businessman from Utah, died last Wednesday of a suspected cardiac event while he was reaching the final part of his climb to the top of the mountain
He fainted due to high altitude sickness after reaching Everest's summit, according to Pioneer Adventure Pvt.
An Austrian climber and two Indian climbers are also reported to have died.
Earlier this month Dipankar Ghosh, a 52-year-old Indian photographer, scaled the world's fifth-highest peak, the snow-capped Mount Makalu.
But he didn't make it back down alive.
After being separated from the rest of his team in bad weather, he collapsed and died along with Narayan Singh, an officer in the Indian army, according to his tour operator.
"Dipankar personified mountains," said his brother, Goutam, sitting by the coffin after it returned to the family's home in Kolkata, the state capital of India's West Bengal, on Wednesday.
"There was nothing else that he loved more."
The Nepalese government is facing increasing criticism over how it issues permits and regulates trekking companies.
Nepal's tourism department issued Everest permits to a record 78 Indian climbers in 2019, up from 59 in 2018.
Indians now make up the largest group of permit holders, overtaking U.S. citizens this year.
Four Indians have already died in separate incidents on Everest this year, the most since five Indian army soldiers were killed on an expedition in 1985.
For decades, expeditions to Everest and Nepal's other "Eight Thousanders" – a small group of difficult peaks above 8,000 metres beloved of mountaineers – were dominated by foreign-run companies.
Then avalanches in 2012 and 2014 killed several local mountain guides, known as sherpas, fuelling anger at what were seen as the excessive profits being made by Western companies, according to Alan Arnette, a veteran mountaineer who has long chronicled deaths on Everest.
Local firms moved in aggressively, offering packages that undercut foreign rivals.
A Nepalese company charges around $35,000 for a trek to the summit of Everest, compared with $70,000 or more for a foreign company, according to several tour operators.
Five years ago, around 80% of treks were run by foreign companies. Now the ratio is reversed, according to Arnette and Phil Crompton, from the U.S.-based Altitude Junkies trekking company.
To be sure, the pitfalls of choosing some cheaper operators – from a lack of oxygen cylinders to cooks being passed off as experienced guides – can befall mountaineers from any country.
But budget firms are especially attractive to Indians, who tend to be more cost-conscious and reliant on donations or sponsorship to fund their trip, several trekking companies said.
"Some Indian climbers look for low-budget companies and get poor services," said Ang Tshering Sherpa, the founder of Asian Trekking, one of Nepal's largest mountaineering companies that has led 54 climbers to the summit of Everest this year without fatalities.
Rizza Alee, 18, said he was forced to abandon an attempt to climb Everest last week, after his sherpa, who was working for a Nepalese company, failed to carry enough oxygen for the summit.
Inexperienced guides were unable to cope with a "massive traffic jam" of climbers near the peak, he added, a result of the Nepalese government issuing a record 381 permits to climb Everest this year.
"Next time if I come, I will choose the company wisely, I will choose the sherpa wisely, I will choose everything wisely," he said.
Mr Ghosh, an experienced climber, was on an expedition led by Nepalese company Seven Summit Treks, one of the country's largest.
Seven of its clients have died on three Himalayan peaks so far this year, the company said.
Thaneswor Guragai, a manager at Seven Summit Treks, said the deaths were not the result of any management failings at the company.
"It was bad weather and anyone could have died," he said.
"It is not because we had no experienced sherpas or we did not provide enough support."
The increasing popularity of Everest, buoyed by social media and the promise of instant fame, is alarming experienced mountaineers in India, who say it encouraging some who lack the necessary skills or training to attempt the feat.
"If an inexperienced climber reaches the Everest summit, he is invited to various social functions as an honorary guest," said Malay Mukherjee, a veteran Indian climber from Kolkata.
"That does not mean he is a good or responsible climber, but it sends the wrong message to others."
Maya Sherpa, 41, chairwoman of Everest Summiteers' Association, who has climbed the peak three times, said she was returning from the summit of Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain on May 15, when she passed an Indian struggling with the climb.
"He was sick but he still insisted on going up," she said.
Allee, the 18-year-old from Kashmir, said after being told about the lack of oxygen on Everest he came back down the mountain in tears, but is now able to put the setback in perspective.
"Since childhood I have been dreaming about it," he said.
"(But) the mountain is always there. There is no point in killing yourself."
The Nepalese government told the Telegraph that it didn’t want to speculate on the cause of the recent spike in deaths.
However, it said there was a possibility that they would reduce the number of permits given to climbers next year.
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