What compels man to risk life and limb to conquer mountains is something few would understand. Perhaps it is within our primal need to explore and challenge ourselves. Indeed, it is that hunger for adventure that takes us to the peaks of Everest which have long been seen as the pinnacle of achievement of undoubtedly brave men and women.

However, over the decades, hundreds of climbers have lost their lives trying to summit Mt. Everest. Here are the top five worst disasters.

1) The 1996 blizzard

On May 10 and 11, 1996, eight people were caught in a blizzard and died on Mt. Everest during summit attempts. In that entire season, a total of 12 people died trying to reach the summit, making this the deadliest year on Mount Everest until only recently.

A brutal climb to the summit, in the film Everest Photo credit: GV.com.sg

A brutal climb to the summit, in the film Everest
Photo credit: Universal

There have been many films about Mt. Everest in the past but now, there’s a disaster thriller-adventure film directed by Baltasar Kormákur which is based on the real events of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster. Everest, as it is aptly titled, has a stellar cast including Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley.

Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the leader of one of the expedition teams when disaster strikes. Photo credit: GV.com.sg

Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the leader of one of the expedition teams when disaster strikes.
Photo credit: Universal

In Everest, climbers from two different expeditions fight for survival during a fierce and devastating snowstorm. One expedition is led by Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the other by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke). The story revolves around the fateful days of these two primary expedition teams.

Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a group of climbers about to face a snowstorm. Photo credit: GV.com.sg

Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a group of climbers about to face a snowstorm.
Photo credit: Universal

Other disastrous events have occurred on Everest, but that was undoubtedly the worst event up until that point in history. It gained wide publicity and raised questions about the commercialisation of Everest. Here’s a look at four more terrible disasters on Everest.

2) Avalanche on the West Ridge

The West Ridge is notorious for being one of the most dangerous routes to the top. Photo credit: summitpost.org

The West Ridge is notorious for being one of the most dangerous routes to the top.
Photo credit: summitpost.org

In 1974, Frenchman Gerard Devouassoux set out to ascent the mountain’s formidable West Ridge. Devouassoux and 19 team members arrived late in August, when they knew the weather would be a gamble, but didn’t bet on the disaster that was about to hit them. The monsoons struck while the climbers were spread across three high camps. During the night of September 9, a large avalanche flushed over the tents, burying Devouassoux and five sherpas. They were never found in the debris. As a result of this disaster, climbers avoided the West Ridge for the next five years.

3) Isolated and frostbitten

The late Francys Arsentiev on Mount Everest Photo credit: Gripped.com

The late Francys Arsentiev on Mount Everest
Photo credit: Gripped.com

In 1998, a 41-year-old Hawaiian-born Francys Arsentiev became the first American woman to reach the top of Everest without supplemental oxygen. She had ascended successfully via the Northeast Ridge with her husband, Sergei. Unfortunately, on their way down in the dark, the pair became separated. When Francys did not show up at the first camp, Sergei, set back up the ridge at first light to find her, and he was never seen again. Eventually, an Uzbek team encountered Francys, frost-bitten, high on the North Face. The team tried to help Francys down the mountain, but it was just too difficult. Two members stayed with her until her death.

4) The ice bulge which eventually broke off

Area where the 2014 avalanche began. Photo credit: Martin Gamache & Matthew Twombly, NationalGeographic.com

Area where the 2014 avalanche began.
Photo credit: Martin Gamache & Matthew Twombly, NationalGeographic.com

On April 18, 2014, an avalanche on Mt. Everest, near base camp killed 16 Nepalese guides. It was caused by an ice bulge which had been a known hazard for years, discharging ice into the Khumbu Icefall area almost every season. The avalanche was triggered when a block of ice broke off from the bulge. The ice block was estimated to be between 15.75 to 31.5 million pounds.

5) The April 2015 earthquake-triggered avalanche

Climbers search through crushed tents at base camp for fellow survivors. Photo credit: aawsat.net

Climbers search through crushed tents at base camp for fellow survivors.
Photo credit: aawsat.net

On April 25, 2015, a huge earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck Nepal. The shaking from the quake triggered an avalanche from Pumori into the basecamp on Mt. Everest.  Between 700 and 1,000 people were on or near the mountain when the earthquake struck and at least 22 people were killed, making it the deadliest disaster on the mountain to date.

Sources: wikipedia.org, outsideonline.com, nationalgeographic.com