May 28, 2019
Scaling Mount Everest has become a superficial experience driven largely by greed and people’s desire for validation on social media. It is a disgrace to the sport of mountaineering itself.
The deaths on Mount Everest keep piling up. A total of eleven people have now died attempting to summit it this year.
A Colorado man has become the eleventh person to die climbing Mount Everest this year.
Chris Kulish, 62, of Boulder, died Monday while descending from the highest summit in the world, his family confirmed in a statement. The circumstances surrounding his death were not clear.
A record number of climbers have summited Mount Everest in April and May, the peak climbing months. Last week, there were reports of massive crowding, especially near Hillary Step, where climbers had to walk single file.
In my opinion, what is happening on Mount Everest is a total disgrace to the sport of mountaineering. I say this as someone who has done hiking and mountaineering as a semi-serious hobby over the past decade or so. During this time, I’ve successfully made the summit of hundreds of mountains spanning multiple countries and continents. This includes several 14k peaks, ultra-prominent peaks along with various state and country high points. The majority of these I hiked solo with no assistance. I am not saying these things to brag or claim that this somehow makes me important or special. I am only saying this because I feel that my mountaineering experience makes me a little more qualified than the average person to speak on this subject.
I’ve had private conversations with other mountaineers about Mount Everest. I’ve said for a while that I would never in a million years attempt to summit this mountain. There are many reasons for me feeling this way, but the main one is that it no longer represents an authentic mountaineering experience. It’s basically become a bizarre tourist attraction of sorts.
It’s worth noting that a good number of the people who attempt this mountain lack any sort of real mountaineering experience. They are only able to attempt it because they have lots of spare cash lying around and want to reach the summit so they can post something “cool” on social media. They heavily rely on guides and the local Sherpas to carry up their gear. This creates a dangerous situation not just for themselves but for the people around them.
How people can find such an experience rewarding is incomprehensible to me. One of the best parts of mountaineering is the satisfaction of knowing that you were able to reach the summit of a mountain on your own. Such an experience is no longer available on Mount Everest because of the circus-like atmosphere that surrounds it.
Anybody who seeks to summit a mountain because they are seeking social media approval or validation from others should ask themselves why they are doing it to begin with. Hiking and mountaineering should be something that you derive personal satisfaction through from within. What others think of you should not factor into your decision to hike a trail or scale a mountain.
There’s also the greed factor involved. An entire industry has been created around Mount Everest and it has become a major part of Nepal’s tourism industry. This year, the Nepalese government got extra greedy and issued far too many summit permits. The end result of them doing this was a long queue of people waiting hours at an elevation above 8,000 meters to reach the summit.
Suffice to say, the situation you see in the above photo is incredibly dangerous. It’s insane that this was allowed to happen. The human body can’t sustain itself for long periods of time at such an altitude. Hell, even far lower elevations can be deadly without proper acclimation.
Mountaineers refer to the zone above 8,000 meters as the “death zone” and for good reason. Many people have died on Mount Everest in this zone and several of their corpses remain up there today.
One corpse called “Green Boots” has been up there for so long that it has since become a landmark for other mountaineers.
There’s something really morbid and sick about all of this.
But you don’t have to take my opinion for it. Take the opinion of Adrian Hayes, a world class mountaineer.
A viral picture of a “traffic jam” on Mount Everest, which may have contributed to as many as 10 deaths, has caused outrage after some suggested the mighty mountain has become a tourist attraction.
Mountaineer Adrian Hayes, who has climbed Everest, K2 and Makalu, has branded the packed peak “unacceptable and disgraceful”. He blamed the Nepalese government, a number of expedition organisers and above all, a social media-driven need for approval.
The long queues on the final ridge line for the peak of Everest meant some climbers spent too long in the “death zone”, above 8,000 metres, until they eventually succumbed to altitude sickness.
“Everest is the tip of the iceberg for this drive for social media recognition,” he said. “It’s recognition instead of significance. And that’s the difference between internal significance. That internal drive has been over taken by ‘look at me – look what I’ve achieved’. We’re on this PR drive and we don’t even know it.”
His view is 100 percent spot on.
It’s a damn shame that any of this is happening because it represents a black eye to what is otherwise a very rewarding sport. But mountaineering is a sport that only provides rewards for people who are doing it for the right reasons. Too many people are attempting Mount Everest for the wrong reasons and what we are seeing unfold represents the aftermath of this highly disgusting debacle.