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.