Is Everest really worth the risk?

We’ve had a couple of stories in the Standard about a pair of local guys (click!) trying to climb Mt. Everest.

I really hope they get back OK.

No, I don’t really hope they make the peak. Frankly, I hope they have the sense to turn around when they need to even if they don’t make the top — most Everest deaths happen on the way down because people killed themselves getting to the top and didn’t have enough energy to get down again.

What’s more interesting is the problems they are running in to with avalanches, rock slides and so on. Global Warming/Climate Change is making Everest drier and more hazardous, to the point that at least one climb organizer has pulled out this year, as described in this article (click) in the NY Times.

I’ve never really understood why people climb Everest — I happily accept that if you don’t understand, you shouldn’t do it. Fine, but that doesn’t really explain why people do it now.

It is well documented that more tourists than actual climbers go up Everest these days. Guides and Sherpas do all the heavy lifting, the route is well marked and prepared, all the climbers have to do is show up and be able to get to the top — which is not easy, but it’s a lot easier now than it was 50 years ago.

In a way, maybe Climate Change is bringing a larger measure of risk back to climbing Everest — it’s not supposed to be easy, or risk free, but it’s almost become that. Hillary didn’t have aluminum ladders, pre-strung ropes or all that other stuff. He and Norgay had to do it the hard way. 

Which, again, is why I hope those two local guys have the good sense, even in oxygen-starved areas above 25,000 feet, to turn back if they should.

Frankly, if someone makes it to the Hillary Step, 300 feet below the peak, I’d happily give it to them if it means they get back alive.

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7 Responses to Is Everest really worth the risk?

  1. Decider says:

    There is an odd psychology to those who become addicted to risk taking — it has a bizzarely perverse dimension that most people don’t want to analyse or think about very much at all.

    An anecdotal story describes two friends; when one approaches the other, he notices that his friend is pinching himself white knuckle hard. He obseves this activity for about fifteen minutes, before his friend finally relents.

    “Why did you pinch youself so hard for such a long time? What is the purpose of doing THAT?” asks the observing friend.

    “The purpose of me pinching myself is . . . that it feels SO GOOD when I stop.” replys the friend.

    I suppose such things give meaning to life . . . for some.

  2. Bob Becker says:

    Is it worth the risk? To the people climbing it, clearly it is. You can ask the same question about any technical climbing, or free climbing or base jumping or sky diving or formula one racing or solo sailing round the globe … keep the list going as long as you like. And the answer would be the same: to the people doing it, clearly it is, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

  3. hawg says:

    it’s a sad life that never took a risk

  4. laytonian says:

    I’ll never climb a mountain, but I believe I took a risk that equals that (and had a wonderful outcome).

    While lying down, anaesthetized, and sleeping …. I was cut almost in half to remove my right kidney. When I woke up, my daughter was beside me. We smiled at each other, the same way we did when I gave birth to her.

    The “lived life to its fullest” crowd looks at sweat. I look at life.

  5. Brad Jackson says:

    Just a couple of thoughts. The cause of deaths on Everest are varied but most deaths have occurred in the Khumbu Icefall, so a misnomer to say most occurred on descent. Where is it well documented that more ‘tourists’ than actual climbers are on Everest? Do climbers have a special ‘climbers’ card identifying themselves as such? How do you define tourist. Lastly, not to diminish Hillary and Norgay’s accomplishment but the Hunt expedition had an extraordinarily large support staff and accompanying equipment as was the norm in the brute force siege tactics of the expedition of the 1950′s. There was an incredible amount of ladders and ropes used.

  6. Brent Glines says:

    People in their 20′s still think they are immortal, and thus are comfortable taking such risks. People in their 60′s know better.

    As a number of people are supposed to have said, “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

  7. John Mc Adam says:

    May all those how have died in pursuit of their dreams on Mount Everest
    Rest In Peace.

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