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.
Memories are Everything