Why So Many People Are Dying On Top Of Mount Everest


Mt. Everest.
It’s big.
It’s dangerous.
And more and more, it’s crowded.
It’s the traffic jam atop the world. A
record number of mountaineers waiting for hours
in the harshest conditions on the planet
to reach the 29,000 foot mountain top.
2019 is shaping up to be one of
the deadliest years in decades on Mount Everest.
And so those in the climbing
industry, it’s a business problem.
It’s like a stock portfolio.
You’ve got 15 climbs around
the world that you’re running.
Some are making more money, some are less.
Some might be closed for political reasons,
some might have a volcano erupt.
So that one’s off the charts.
We’re moving to other areas. So
as a business model you need all these
mountains to really make you work for yourself.
Otherwise you’re forced to maybe run a trip you
don’t want to run or have a problem
canceling a trip.
I mean we’ve canceled trips for five days
before they left, knowing that there’s other
mountains that we do to support that.
But I think if you’re doing one or two
mountains, you’re relying on that, it puts you as
a business person in a really difficult situation where
if I don’t run the trip I could
be out of business or going broke.
And you don’t want to be there.
In late May 2019, social media images surfaced
showing what looked like a human traffic
jam at 29,000 feet, in the upper troposphere.
An image now emblematic of a deadly new
normal, droves of climbers waiting for their
chance to summit Mount Everest.
But dark details soon became
apparent from the image.
Several people died on the mountain that day.
Reports then surfaced of long lines leading
to the summit and climbers burning through
oxygen as they waited for inexperienced climbers to
be helped off the mountain or for
others to take selfies at
the top of the mountain.
Even with these things going on we’re getting
calls like, I heard about the disasters.
But hey, what does it take to climb Everest?
You know we’ll give them a three or
four year routine but also unfortunately people are
doing one or two smaller climbs.
They felt like they’ve done well.
They’re contacting up an outfitter saying Can I
give it a try with this kind of
experience and they’re saying yes.
So a combination I think of people misreading
what it takes to climb Everest and perhaps
some of the guide services misreading what
should be expected from clients before taking
them on this mountain.
Mount Everest has become big business for
both climbing companies and the local tourist
industry. Those kinds of images are
putting certain business practices under scrutiny.
The Nepalese government makes a
lot of money from Mt.
Everest.
According to several media reports the government
makes $300 million from climbing each
year. It sells permits to foreigners that allow
them to climb the Nepalese side of Mt.
Everest. They cost $11,000 and
nearly anyone can get one.
Nepal does not cap the number of permits it
issues, and it issued a record 381 permits in
2019.
I certainly would like to
reduce the volume up there.
But there’s a better way to look at who should
be going up on what day and how to spread
that out on a case-by-case basis.
Reaching the top of Mount Everest is so dangerous
with its brutal winds and lack of oxygen
that there are only a few windows each season
in which climbers can hope to reach the
summit. And there are more and more climbers
from around the world trying to check
Everest off their bucket lists.
India and China have gotten much wealthier in
the past 20 years, and mountaineering in
general has gotten more
popular across the world.
That’s opening up Mt.
Everest to as many self-proclaimed adventurers who
can afford the steep price of entry.
Well, we can say that the interest in Everest
has always increased, but in these past few
years it’s increased, I don’t
know, you know 10 fold.
We’re seeing a 10 percent increase
probably for the past 10 years.
But the increased demand isn’t
coming with increased quality control
Climbers who lack the endurance and training
needed to summit Everest slow everyone else
down, increasing the time other climbers
spend in the dangerous summit.
And even if one climbing company does go
above and beyond in vetting its clients, they
can be on the mountain with any number
of climbing companies that don’t, trying to summit
the mountain at the same time.
Mount Everest is a big
tourist attraction for Nepal.
Nepal is a poor country, landlocked
in tough but beautiful geography.
It needs tourism, and Mount Everest, even if
you’re not a climber, is a big draw.
During the climbing season, base
camp becomes a mini city.
Even actress Mandy Moore recently visited at
So if calls to cap the number of
permits Nepal issues to potential Mount Everest climbers
come to fruition, the government there stands
to potentially lose millions of dollars.
That also means lost livelihoods for Sherpas,
the local guides who make their living
guiding climbers up and down
the Himalayan mountains. And
the local adventure tourism industry set
up around Everest in the Himalayas.
It’s expensive to climb Everest
using an established mountaineering company.
Newer local companies in Nepal, for example,
charge tens of thousands of dollars less.
We can’t tell what kind
of fitness you’re in beforehand.
Why aren’t you vetting these climbers for
fitness? By what? By making them go
up the mountain a week before?
There’s no way to vet how much time
people have put into their fitness training,
and that’s a lot of it when said the
system of how we’re going to evaluate people.
We don’t know until they get there.
It becomes the guide’s responsibility
to more turn people around.
And that’s pretty hard.
God, just gave you a $50,000 check and
your trip is over on day three.
But that is part of the job of a
guide and a guide service, if it’s not right.

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