Everest Fever

Sadly, 10 climbers are now dead from the events  over the past weekend on Everest. It was reported earlier as 11 dead, but fortunately, one climber, Italian Luigi Rampini was found alive and rescued!

If you’re looking for the latest news on what happened or some insight into what is happening on the mountain now, I only wish I had something to share especially if you know one of the hundreds of climbers on or around the mountain. I am trying to understand what is happening like everyone else.

I keep thinking of Freddie Wilkinson’s book, One Mountain, Thousand Summits. He delves into the 2008 K2 disaster from a journalist’s perspective, as well as a climber, and attempted to reconstruct the frenzy of what friends and family around the planet where doing to find out if their loved-climbers were okay. Satellite phones, email, Twitter, Facebook have all changed the way we see what was happening. It’s a powerful story of loss, what people thought was happening on the mountain, why the public thinks climbers climb, and an introduction to some of the unheralded heroes. I’m sure family and friends were searching for news through phone calls throughout the day and tracking social media. In that, truth and misinformation are intermingled.

As for the events on Everest, no doubt truth and misinformation have been trickling out or even flowing out liberally. For instance, author and producer Jennifer Jordan — who is well connected with leaders in climbing — posted an amazing and worrisome photo on social media of easily well over 100 people walking up in what resembles a conga line or reminiscent of gold prospectors heading over the pass in the Yukon. I don’t know when it was taken or who actually took it. I don’t know conclusively what it means. Regardless, I had the same thought everyone else made: Wow, that’s unreal! As one put it, that was crowded even on a good day on Mont Blanc.

I want to judge those climbers. I don’t like the look of their climbing style. I don’t like conga lines. You don’t have conga lines in the wilderness. In the wilderness you have small teams and alpine ascents without fixed ropes.

I shouldn’t judge them because I do know this: Some climbers just want the top. They want to get up there. Whether it requires pain, thin air, altitude sickness, maybe even frostbite, and perhaps a conga line. Everest is the biggest. Maybe it’s not the baddest, but it’s a universally recognized icon. I suspect if you’re on the rope line heading up you’ll go to the top even if it means sharing the top and the struggle with the entire neighborhood from that crowded basecamp. For them, it’s an acceptable price of admission to the Everest club.

There are plenty of other climbs around the world, offering their own challenge. But when you think you can do Everest, isn’t that a notch in your belt you want to have? Why not me? Why not you?

For those who were lost, injured or failed in their attempt, they did what they needed to do to feel complete. In that, I’m positive they felt alive.

Thanks for dropping by again, as always. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading and carpe climb ‘em!


5 thoughts on “Everest Fever

  1. You never want to hear about death on the mountains, but the way things are run on Everest today it is almost unavoidable. Grayson Schaffer on Outside.com, has some incredible photos of this conga line–even one taken at night of a line of lights on the north ridge.

    Lack of organization between climbing teams, inexperience and obsession (or greed in a sense) of climbers, is putting a lot of people in danger on Everest. I agree with your statement that people want to put a notch in their belt by climbing Everest, but does it really mean as much as it did? Maybe to the average non-climber, but in the climbing community I don’t believe a “tourist climb” up Everest really counts for much.

    I just watched “The Wildest Dream” the other evening and I tried to imagine what climbers like George Mallory would think of this system. The mystery and aura around Everest is long gone and as long as hundreds of people can shell at the cash they want a ticket to the top. These kinds of disasters, I fear, will become commonplace soon.

  2. Standing on the highest point of our planet – on top of Mt Everest – is a dream of many individuals, driven by the curiosity to explore the Earth and the limits of human capacity. In the last few years, a trip to Everest seems to be so close within reach, due to the well-worked out logistics by several western commercial mountaineering companies and the vast amount of recently appeared literature about the climb, that it is not surprising that the number of aspiring climbers is raising incredibly fast.

    This year’s Everest season has received probably the widest coverage ever with the help of the explosion of social media and the extensive use of satellite communication. Most participating commercial expeditions (US/Canada), such as IMG, RMI, Peak Freaks, National Geographic, have live blogs. In addition, many of the participating climbers created their own websites and also transmit their ongoing experiences on a regular basis. What is more, a number of journalists and mountaineers closely follow and share the events and the progress of the climbers of this season. Probably one of the most informative and most frequently updated blog rolls is that of Alan Arnette (http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/category/everest-2012/).

    The abundance of freshly pressed news and immediately released personal stories makes following the season extremely exciting, which in turn fuels one’s desire to climb the Giant even more. At the same time, the recent releases are also thought-provoking, since they present different perspectives of the tremendous undertaking and the extreme environment.

    There are many ways to climb a mountain but only one way to climb it right. The information and examples regarding this idea are abundant and accessible. Given these means, aspiring climbers can make a conscious choice to walk the path with integrity, responsibility, and respect towards the mountain and fellow climbers.

  3. It’ll always happen. It will just happen en masse on Everest and it will transcend the PlanetMountain.com and AlanArnette.com reporting-level to CNN and HuffingtonPost.com level. But when it happens to a small alpine style team in the Canadian rockies, it’s just an accident.

    By the way, I love the shot from Marcy Dam on The Life Scout!

  4. You’re right, Erika. We can’t stop aspiring climbers from dreaming of the top — including Everest. Everest is still “the big” destination for climbing. It’s a big climb for those attempting it and always will be. I can’t discourage them. I don’t find it attractive, but if someone invited me and promised funding, well… er … even I might get excited.

    Alan’s site is one of the better resources. Thanks for pointing it out!

  5. Thanks! I took that photo last year on my way up Mount Marcy. Believe it or not, despite living in New Jersey, I had never hiked in the Adirondacks. I have always been a lover of the White Mountains in New Hampshire; however, that trip definitely opened up my eyes. I have another high peaks trip planned for this summer already and I can’t wait.

    Great blog by the way. I’m really happy I found it. I’m also a suppressed lover of mountaineering and mountaineering history. I’m looking forward to more of your posts.

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