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Mt Everest

RJM Corbet

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IMG_20190525_193855_166.jpg


This week's queue for Mt Everest summit. 12 hour wait. These people are totally exhausted, on bottled oxygen to breathe, it's still a long way down and conditions can quickly change to minus 60C with 200 mph winds and almost zero visibility. 10 climbers dead already this year.

What a sad picture.

What does @Vertigo think?
 
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AlexH

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It's ridiculous. For something that's a major risk to life already, I can't believe the number of permits wasn't limited years ago. Surely they will be now. That'll probably bump up the cost, which is currently over £8,000. Apparently, oxygen tanks have been stolen too - which is possibly murdering someone. Winds of 10mph are cold enough to be an issue.

I don't know the exact statistics, but as many people seem to die on the way down as up. Oxygen tanks will obviously be lower, and I imagine motivation is a big factor. I rarely enjoy walking down (much, much, much (etc.) smaller) mountains on the same route I took up. Not that I climb them to achieve the height, but reaching the summit often seems like the biggest challenge even when it can be more difficult getting down.

Where have you read about a 12-hour wait? That seems an exaggeration. And thankfully, it's not like the picture all the time. It happens when weather windows suitable for reaching the summit are short or people have been waiting during bad weather.
 

Abernovo

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Not Vertigo, obvs., but this is akin to why I stopped Munro-bagging.

Before I go on, I'll say I am most sorry that climbers have died. Mountaineering has its risks, and I've had a couple of falls, but it's always sad to lose people on the hill. I've known people who've died. There are no words, but they're in my heart.

The reports I've seen have said up to one and a half hours queueing, not twelve. And you are not going to ascend in 200mph winds - you cannot stand against them on the flat so, close to the summit of the world, it's not going to happen; it's all about weather windows, as Alex points out. They do limit permits, but I suspect money talks.

So, to return to my thought...
I love going up hills and mountains and, at one time, I was effectively paid to traverse them (as a wildlife manager). I've climbed (again, I suspect, not to Vertigo's levels), scrambled, and walked up several in more than a couple of countries, for work and fun. But, I hated how people were encouraged to go up different peaks just for a 'tick'. I even bought into it for a short while, until I realised I was more interested in enjoying the beauty of the world than racing up yet another summit just to say I had done it.

On a (very much) related note, so many more are going up Everest, but other high peaks are being ignored by trophy hunters, because they're not as high.

I would love to do some high peaks, but only as a personal challenge, and to see more of the world*. And in a small group, not en masse. However, I find this commercialisation of...I was going to write mountains but, really, it's any and every part of...the natural world, making what should be a personal achievement (and a moment of pleasure) nothing more than a line in a CV, distasteful.

I'm all for 'higher, further, faster', by the way. It's just that I believe in pushing to be a better person, and seeing the beauty along the way, without shrivelling any more of my soul along the way. Ramble, scramble, and dangle for yourself, not for an image, or a corporate outfit.

*Alas, the highest peaks may be out, due to lung scarring, and progressive arthritis, both of which are exacerbated by altitude and pressure changes.
 

The Ace

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"Rainbow Ridge," named after the brightly-coloured snow-suits of the bodies.

While I'm all for experienced climbers trying this kind of thing, Everest is known as, "The World's Highest Open Grave," for a reason, and this just seems to be an elaborate form of suicide. Many ask why the bodies are just left where they fall, or occasionally kicked into the nearest crevasse, but I think it was in the '80s that the family of an American woman who'd died up there, bribed their way into a recovery attempt - which cost the lives of two of the party.
 

CupofJoe

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Isn't one of the problems with people wanting to climb Big E is that technically its a relatively easy climb? If you want to do places like K2 you have to be an experienced climber and know what you are doing and able to complete the technical sections. With Everest, there are one or two technical sections but most of its difficulty is just dealing with being that high. [I know that this is all relative so at altitude, even walking is a technical feat]
 

RJM Corbet

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It's from the Daily Mail, not famous for the complete accuracy of its journalism. 379 permits issued to climbers from 41 organisations for May 2019 climbing season.The 12hr wait was taken from yesterday's paper May 25
20190526_060530.jpg


EDIT: Chrons hosts a lot of mountaineers!
 
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AlexH

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So, to return to my thought...
I love going up hills and mountains and, at one time, I was effectively paid to traverse them (as a wildlife manager). I've climbed (again, I suspect, not to Vertigo's levels), scrambled, and walked up several in more than a couple of countries, for work and fun. But, I hated how people were encouraged to go up different peaks just for a 'tick'. I even bought into it for a short while, until I realised I was more interested in enjoying the beauty of the world than racing up yet another summit just to say I had done it.

On a (very much) related note, so many more are going up Everest, but other high peaks are being ignored by trophy hunters, because they're not as high.
Same here - I love being outdoors for the views and feeling of wilderness. Though during a trip through the Hebrides, after about 15 islands, I realised I'd been to the highest points on all but two of them, so decided I may as well keep it up (and the highest was only 992m). Amusingly, the only one I failed to climb was the lowest at around 30m, the highest point on Vallay. It was guarded by a few bulls with lots of calves around. I didn't want to risk being stuck on the island at high tide so gave it a miss.

I hate things like the Three Peaks Challenge in the UK (climb the highest points in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours). They start off with good intentions (for charity), but I imagine the likes of the Three Peaks have become so popular, they do more damage than good. People racing around without time to appreciate the environment, leaving their litter, straying off (and widening) paths, not using local businesses etc. I'm yet to climb the highest points in England (where I live) or Scotland, but I'm sure I will at some point.
 

Abernovo

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Though during a trip through the Hebrides, after about 15 islands, I realised I'd been to the highest points on all but two of them, so decided I may as well keep it up (and the highest was only 992m)
Oh, goodness, yes. You're doing that for yourself, for fun. On a side note, there's something called islandeering, which is traversing the coastlines of islands--it can involve a bit of climbing or scrambling, if you wish--purely done for fun, and you can do as much of the island as you want, but is good for combining sea views and exercise.
I hate things like the Three Peaks Challenge in the UK (climb the highest points in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours). They start off with good intentions (for charity), but I imagine the likes of the Three Peaks have become so popular, they do more damage than good. People racing around without time to appreciate the environment, leaving their litter, straying off (and widening) paths, not using local businesses etc.
This. Exactly this. I think the local business point sums it up. In the Himalaya, they pay Sherpas, but many of the climbers are flown in, often to stay in hotels owned by multinational corporations and, I suspect, do not interact (except in the most superficial way) with the local community and business. I don't blame the individuals, as it happens, but the corporate accountants and marketing executives who take over these enterprises, and only see figures on balance sheets -- they create a bubble which isolates people from each other, and from nature. The same is true of many activities, regardless of location.
 

pyan

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The death rate on Everest is about 6%, or to put it another way, you've a 94% chance of surviving. 25% of summiteers die on the descent.
Ascent to the base of the Khumbu Icefall, and to Concordia at the foot of K2 have been on my bucket list for years, but the odds against ever ticking them off recede more rapidly every year.:(

You know, there are other mountains... just sayin' ;)



K2
Yes... The chances of dying on K2 are significantly higher - nearly 29%. It's a much harder climb than Everest, however. The worst odd of surviving of all the 8000m peaks, though, is Annapurna I, at 34%: ie, if your expedition is six strong, chances are that only four will come back...

List of deaths on eight-thousanders - Wikipedia
 

Vertigo

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Everest has long been a circus and with everyone using oxygen now pretty much anyone can climb it. It can be climbed without and has been now many times. Personally I think oxygen should be banned on all the high mountains. For two main reasons. First, it's environmentally unsound. the south col must be a couple of meters deep in old bottles now. Even though they are now expected to bring all the bottles down, if there are any problems such as sickness or weather the bottles are the first thing left behind. Secondly, it has been climbed without so, in my view there is no justification for using them. Effectively all oxygen does is lower the height of the mountain, so what's the point.

On top of all that if you climb it you're going to be climbing past a bunch of dead bodies on the way; no thank you. If I could acclimatise to those altitudes (my body simply doesn't) then I'd go try K2. Everest just makes me angry!
 

-K2-

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Well, though I was having a bit of fun due to K2's name, I would never criticize anyone's choices and goals... Especially when it is well beyond my abilities. Nevertheless, I get it... Everest the 'tallest, highest spot on earth, etc..' K2 is (I can only guess) a goal of overcoming its unique difficulties. So I get that too. But...

Gangkhar Puensum, Labuche Kang III/East, Karjiang, Tongshanjiabu as I have discovered looking into this subject (due to this discussion btw) have never been successfully-- officially-- climbed/topped, whatever you'd call it. Why I don't know. Perhaps there are certain difficulties that I'm not aware of, or perhaps it's simply since they rank 40, 93, 99, 102nd (103?) highest respectively, they're simply bypassed by the masses for more traditional marks of accomplishment.

After seeing photos (among others) of the now heavily regulated, politicized, and popularized chaos of climbing Everest... along with all the trash that is being left there... if I was capable, being the first to one of those others would hold a MUCH greater appeal to me.

But that's just me, who will never be able to scale the lowest of the world's tallest. So it's easy to make judgments from afar.

Some web photos of Everest's trash... that actually angers me tremendously. If you can't haul out your crap, then you haven't successfully done anything. Then again, I'm a Native American and conservationist. So I have respect for the planet and other people.







K2
 
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AlexH

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I recognised one of the names while scrolling through - Tom Ballard, who I've read interviews with and died two month ago. :( I also remember his mum, Alison Hargreaves, who died descending K2, and climbed the north face of Switzerland's Eiger while six months pregnant with Tom. I think she was the first woman to climb Everest alone without supplemental oxygen.
 

AlexH

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I Googled Alison Hargreaves after mentioning her above, and she highlights another motivation (definitely not hers) for climbing the highest peaks (this interview is from 1995, just before she died):

"It's almost like the 8,000m game is becoming not just about collecting peaks but about collecting sponsorship as well.

That's exactly what I was going to say. The reason people are doing it is because it means something to the general public. It means sponsors. It means you can get the money. That's why."

If you are given two options, take the hard one. You'll regret it if
 

CTRandall

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Sympathies to all those who lost loved ones. We might argue with the motivations or abilities of some of the climbers but I'm sure they were good people who didn't deserve this fate.

In the bigger picture, this offers the perfect metaphor for our current relationship with nature. People think that if they spend enough money on fancy gear and pay someone else to do the heavy lifting, they can do anything they want and avoid any consequences. Nature, however, simply does not care. If we don't figure that out soon, we'll pay the price as surely as those climbers did.
 
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