Climbers on Mt. Everest, May 2012. (Photo: Ralf Dujmovits)
Climbers on Mt. Everest, May 2012. (Photo: Ralf Dujmovits)

Just days after talking about the very long TSA security lines at US airports, I came across this photo of a different line of people. The sad thing about this line is that these are climbers on Mt. Everest hoping to reach the summit during a very limited window of good weather. This is a line of humanity on the upper reaches of what used to be one of the most remote spots in the world. But for enough money, say $30,000 to $85,000 or so, you too can buy a place in this line. Of course you’ll have to train rigorously for months to get this far. Then depending on the weather and jams like this on the trail (more a rope line than actual trail), you may or may not get your chance at the summit. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a good chance you’ll die somewhere up where all those people are trying to go. You’ll fall, or have a heart attack, or die of altitude sickness. Four climbers died of those causes just this week. In the past others have died because they froze to death or ran out of oxygen while waiting in lines like this. Also in 2014 and 2015 , avalanches and earthquakes killed a number of climbers and Sherpas.

I’ve been fascinated by Everest since I was a kid, since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to conquer the mountain in 1953. It saddens me that the mountain and its challenge have become so commercialized. It degrades the experience for everyone.


In Memoriam

Phurba Sherpa, 25, fall

Eric Arnold, 36, suspected heart attack

Maria Strydom, 34, altitude sickness

Subash Paul, 44, altitude sickness


20 thoughts on “Queued

    1. I suspect you’ll find very few mountaineers do it for attention. There are easier, safer ways to get attention. It’s the personal challenge of pitting themselves against the mountain, and Everest is the ultimate mountain. It’s just a shame that commercial guides/companies have put it within reach of people who have no business being there. Used to be you had to trek weeks to base camp. Now the wealthy folks just fly into base camp and start from there. The Australian woman who died was trying to prove something about vegans, but everybody up there has a personal reason for doing it. Blind people, amputees, senior citizens, all want to prove to themselves they can do it.

  1. I have no sympathy for the Australian woman Maria Strydom, she committed suicide by stupidity. A lecturer at one of Australia’s best universities she set out to prove that ‘vegans’ could do what carnivores could do; and of course she was proven wrong.

    We are probably getting a great deal more info regarding this woman and her death than you in the US are, naturally enough.

    1. I understand her vegan stand, but I doubt it made any difference if altitude sickness is what got her. Getting down, fast, is the only cure for it, and she didn’t/couldn’t get down fast enough.

    2. Vegans CAN do what omnivores do (and unless you eat ONLY meat, the correct term is “omnivore,” not “carnivore.”) Just because one vegan died in the attempt, that doesn’t mean other vegans won’t be able to do it. You might as well say that because one woman died, others can’t make the climb, or one brunette, or one short guy. Your comment smacks of arrogance and agenda, not to mention a whole lot of ignorance about people who don’t eat animal products. I know a few body builders who can set you straight on what the body needs to sustain itself. Hint: Humans don’t NEED meat.

    1. I understand the appeal to mountaineers. And I understand the need, perhaps, for some commercial companies to spring up to support the climbers. But the problem is obvious and if the climbing companies themselves don’t have the sense to stop putting dangerous numbers of people on the mountain, then the Nepalese government should establish some limits. (I can’t really blame the Sherpas; they need the money and it’s almost their only source of income.)

        1. They should perhaps implement a lottery of some kind and allow only x number of people on the mountain each season. Everest is dangerous enough without risking death just because a line is too long or the people ahead of you too slow.

          1. Yep, that’s the link I included in the story. It’s not something you just up and do on a whim. They call them “expeditions” for a reason.

          2. You’re excused. I put the link, not the full URL, and a lot of readers (maybe most) don’t stop to click on links as they read.

  2. I agree that it’s not the desire for attention, but rather the drive to pit yourself against an enormous challenge that drives people. Humanity used to strive for survival. Now that we are more secure economically, I guess we (other people, not me!) need to fill that void with something more “meaningful”!

    1. Sure. Some people are challenged by climbing mountains. Others sail across the ocean or circumnavigate the globe. Others want to write a novel, or open their own business, or play a musical instrument. Challenges and goals are as varied as the people who have them.

  3. The number of people going up there is ridiculous, as is the pollution they leave behind, not to mention the number of dead bodies there. They had to do a massive clean-up and there are still bodies and trash up there. There really needs to be a moratorium up there for environmental reasons. It’s starting to look like a garbage dump.

    1. It certainly is. I don’t know what happened to the simple rule we have in US parks. You carry it in, you carry it out. Or my favorite, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” I know conditions are extremely harsh up there, but those teams still ought to be responsible for removing everything they haul in. As for bodies, I understand some cannot be reached or even found, and I understand that in the death zone you’re lucky to haul yourself off the mountain. But empty oxygen cannisters and plain old trash should be removed by whoever brought it in.

      I saw a picture recently of a local man on the summit, and you couldn’t even see the ground for all the flags that had been left. I understand raising your nation’s flag or a prayer flag if you reach the summit, but don’t leave it there!

... and that's my two cents