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Apr 102018
Ladders in the Icefall

I’ve been covering Everest since 2002 and each year about this time in my coverage I get the usual comments decrying the commercialism, the tourism, the lack of skills by the climbers, the lack of challenge and more. Usually I ignore the comments and in rash cases delete them when they become personal or simply irrational, of course in my humble opinion. 🙂

After all, this blog is about celebrating the challenge of mountaineering, not a platform for those with agendas to put down others by their artificial definitions of what is a “good” climb.  I fully accept and respect the sense of climbing by “fair means” or unique, difficult routes and first ascents – they are to be celebrated without question. However for most climbers, the only rules that really matter are those around their own person goals. To see if they can do it. To see if they are who they think they are. To learn and return home a better version of themselves. This is what climbing is all about for me. The summit (or just the attempt), with or without oxygen, ropes or Sherpa support is secondary and does not take away from an individual’s personal achievement, as measured by that person alone and no other.

The Other Side

I have defended Everest climbers, and myself, since 2002. I have seen and heard it all. While I agree with some criticism, especially around those climbers with limited experience and those “guides” who take money with inadequate experience; overall an attempt of Everest is a moment in a person’s life to be supported and admired. I will dispute that anyone is “hauled to the summit.”

I could go on and on as I did in the article I wrote for Rock and Ice in 2013 but I won’t. I will simply quote Chris Bonington in a recent publication in the by invitation only Explorer’s Club Explorers Journal. If you don’t know Chris, do some homework. If you don’t know Chris, you may want to to reconsider your criticism. Here’s Chris.

EJ: What do you think of the way Everest is climbed today?

CB: Well, I’m incredibly glad that I did it when I did, because we had the place to ourselves. So far as what’s happened since, I don’t blame the Nepalese government for opening up the mountain and basically saying that any number of expeditions can go up it. This has created the opportunity for guided and commercial climbing. Now you have a thousand people at basecamp and a hundred on the South Col, where there are fixed ropes that go all the way to the summit. But I don’t begrudge or regret what happened. It’s a natural evolution. Crowds of people have been guided up on Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn in the Alps for more than a century now. What’s happening on Everest is the same.

But for each of these people going up today on fixed ropes it is still the experience of a lifetime.

I just think that the experience could be made better. But I’m not worried about it. Climbing is an adventure and adventure is alive and well.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

  14 Responses to “Everest 2018: The Critics Corner”


    Alan, I was in Nepal in 2017 with my daughter; I had been to a lecture earlier that year by the great man himself. The audience were hooked from minute one, he was both philosophical about the climbing world, having lost so many great friends over the years, but humorous too. We were in Kathmandu having returned from EBC and saw him in the Kathmandu Guest House with his son. My daughter went over and told him that we held him in high regard, and he invited us over, and was interested to hear why we were there, and our plans. A true gentleman, and something I shall never forget.


    Alan –

    Thank you for running such a great site and blog! I came across it this year searching to follow the various teams up the mountain. Going back and reading some of your dispatches from your climbs and various posts here has made me dream big too. Right now my friend and I are training for Mt. Whitney in October and Rainer next year…you’re blog has inspired us to dream bigger and look at going for some of the larger peaks with a sense of adventure and wonder. Thank you for speaking up on this topic and thank you so much for all of your information, thoughts and continuing to follow these expeditions. To say thank you, both my friend and I will be making a donation to one of your charities this week.


    Well said.


    Hi Alan,
    So glad to be following your outstanding coverage of Everest yet again. It’s one of the highlights of my spring!
    Just wanted to chime in and say that I wholeheartedly agree with your take here. For every Everest hopeful, there’s someone who got up off of their sofa, dropped 40 lbs., and is training for their first 5K.
    What do they both have in common? Following their dreams, of course. I, personally, feel like each should be celebrated. Whether they finish or not is immaterial. They got up and tried!


    Your best post ever! That sums it all up.


    There is a lot of jealousy from people who cannot and will not ever have the oppurtunity. Good luck to everyone climbing in 2018.


    Ah the wonderful Chris Bonnington – thank you for that Alan! Just a quick question – have you ever met or interviewed Doug Scott?