Perhaps It is Time to Rethink the Mountain
The Mountain of all Mountains
Recent days have brought us stories of people dying on Mount Everest in near record numbers. It usually takes an avalanche or a major storm to cause so many casualties. What got them this time? Standing in line.
The Nepalese government issued close to 400 permits this season. By all accounts, that is more than the summit approaches likely could handle. And so, it has come to pass. We have seen what seems to be remarkable photos. Dozens of people standing in lines just short of the summit, waiting on their turn to finish the climb. The Nepalese government has indicated no change in the number of passes for next season.
This is happening in a dangerous zone. It features low oxygen and unpredictable weather. As a result, people succumb and die, often after making the summit. Imagine doing all this and dying on the way back down. What would one be thinking if the climber knew they were in trouble and likely to die, on the way back down?
It is ironic that all this is happening now. This is an anniversary week. The historic climb by Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgayin took place in 1953. They did so, by the way, just before Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. People took it as a good sign for the new queen’s reign.
What Has Changed Since 1953?
A lot has changed. Many dozens have now crested the summit. Men, women, handicapped, blind, Asians, Europeans, Americans – a lot of people. Some Sherpa guides have many ascents under their belt.
Equipment has gotten much better. In some cases, so has conditioning and training. That last is not always the case. It seems there are still many people attempting this who should not be doing so. Most will fall short; some will die trying. Those who die in this effort will remain on the mountain forever. Bodies are not brought back down.
The challenge remains great, but one has to wonder if this challenge makes much sense for so many people. At this point, it is not the unique achievement it once was. As noted, a LOT of people have already done this. These are people with lots of time and money on their hands.
The cost of an expedition can vary widely. My understanding is that the basic package runs around $60,000. I would not deny anyone the option to spend their own money as they wish. Still, one wonders. What else could one do with $60,000? How much good could be accomplished? For that matter, how much alternative adventure could be bought? It seems like a lot of money for something that is easing into the ordinary, or at least away from the unique.
People that seek supreme challenges are a good thing for our species. We need that drive in our DNA. But what is going on now feels less like grand adventure. It feels more like ill-conceived waste by at least some of the would-be summiteers. Too much time and money on your hands can be a dangerous thing.
If you are thinking about challenging Mount Everest, think again. I bet you can find a better use for your time and treasure.
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