First British female climber to lead two successful expeditions on Mt Everest reflects on the peak's 'dark side'

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As the number of climbers on Everest increases, so too does the death toll, amid calls on Nepal and China to limit permit numbers.

According to Ms Gilbert, an expedition leader for the Lake District-based company Adventure Peaks, the queue was not remarkable, it just so happened that someone was able to take a picture of it.

On her own expedition she believes she may have passed as many as 50 dead bodies.

She writes that the accolade of making a piece of British mountaineering history is a “distraction”, and the real motivation behind her story is to share her thoughts on a side of Everest rarely talked about – “the cost of human life” and its impact on those who climb.

She recounts the “humiliation” of going to the toilet at altitude where “everything is on display”, the necessity of being joined at the hip and sharing a sleeping bag with your Sherpa.

Before the final push she shared life and death advice, in broken English, that she exchanged with her sherpa Phirinhee: “If you cold, we turn around. If me cold, we turn around.”

They passed parties of people who had summited, who she described as “walking wounded” and her heart sank when they approached the first steep wall and saw a stationary head torch illuminating a lone body, which slowly moved into an upright position.



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