So, you want to climb Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak at 29,028 ft (8,848 m)? You're not alone; about 4,000 climbers have made the trek to Everest in the last 60 years, since Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, conquered the mountain on May 29, 1953—60 years ago.
Photo: Cory Richards
The mountain is becoming more crowded. In 1963, “only six people reached the top of Everest; in the spring of 2012 more than 500 mobbed the summit,” Mark Jenkins of National Geographic writes:
Everest has always been a trophy, but now that almost 4,000 people have reached its summit, some more than once, the feat means less than it did a half century ago. Today roughly 90 percent of the climbers on Everest are guided clients, many without basic climbing skills. Having paid $30,000 to $120,000 to be on the mountain, too many callowly expect to reach the summit.
A significant number do, but under appalling conditions. The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted, with garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement befouling the high camps. And then there are the deaths. Besides the four climbers who perished on the Southeast Ridge, six others lost their lives in 2012, including three Sherpas.
Clearly the world’s highest peak is broken. But if you talk to the people who know it best, they’ll tell you it’s not beyond repair.
There is also beauty on Everest. I’ll never forget the breathtaking view from our perch at Camp III, clouds roiling up the Western Cwm like a slow-motion reverse avalanche. Or the visceral relief of a cup of scalding soup at Camp IV. Or the crunch of my crampons in the crystalline labyrinth of the Khumbu Icefall just above Base Camp. I’ll treasure the memory of climbing with friends on the mountain. I committed my life to them, and they committed their lives to me.
Such moments are the reasons climbers keep coming back to Everest. It’s not simply about reaching the summit but about showing respect for the mountain and enjoying the journey. Now it’s up to us to restore a sense of sanity to the top of the world.And that many will do, as long as the mountain keeps calling out to them, including the first woman from Saudi Arabia to do so; on Saturday, Raha Muharraq, reached the summit of Everest. Kudos to here for such a feat. Even so, such sporting challenges need to be done in a more sustainable manner, perhaps limiting the number of permits issued each year to climbers. Garbage is one of the main problems, perhaps surprising to many of us, who have long viewed the mountain as pristine and pretty.
As for solutions, it is difficult to say. In a nation where the government is currently both dysfunctional and ineffective in dealing with such matters, it might best be left to the expedition operators to self-regulate, if only to ensure that the Everest does not become just another of humanity’s garbage dump.
You can read the rest of the article at [NatGeo].