- Associated Press - Monday, May 21, 2012

KATMANDU, Nepal — Three climbers who had scaled Mount Everest died on their descent and two went missing during a crowded weekend on the Himalayan peak, raising concerns Monday about congested trails and poor conditions near the summit.

An estimated 150 climbers tried to reach the top Friday and Saturday as they rushed to use a brief window of good weather in what otherwise has been a troubled season for climbing.

Many of the climbers had been waiting at a staging camp for several days for their chance.

The three climbers who died Saturday are believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha told the Associated Press. Officials were still gathering details from descending climbers, he said.

The victims were identified as German doctor Eberhard Schaaf, Nepal-born Canadian Shriya Shah and South Korean mountaineer Song Won-bin. The missing climbers are a Chinese national and his Nepalese Sherpa guide.

“There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m. which is quite dangerous,” Mr. Shrestha said.

Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at South Col is nicknamed the “death zone” because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

“With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent,” Mr. Shrestha said.

The climbing season normally runs from late March to the first week in June, and the Nepalese government places no limits on how many climbers can be on 29,035-foot mountain, the world’s highest.

The season’s first clear conditions were on Friday and Saturday, but that window already was closing by Saturday afternoon with a windstorm at higher altitudes, Mr. Shrestha said.

Ang Tshering, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said the government should impose a system of climbing schedules so that scores of climbers are not trying to reach the summit on the same day.