Has anything really changed on Mount Everest since the 1996 tragedy? We’re at the 20th anniversary mark of that horrific climbing season – eight climbers died and others were stranded in a vicious storm at high altitudes for hours. Reportedly, procedures on the mountain have gotten worse.
In the 1996 tragedy documented in Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer covered the vanity and ego of the climbers, particularly the amateurs. While Nepal relies heavily on the revenue of the climbing season, safety measures remain unaddressed. The commercial stake of the various governments has become synonymous with the tragedies on Everest. The ethical implications of climbing the world’s highest peak swirl, but continue to be ignored.
I’ve been tracking the Everest climbing seasons for a while.
> 2016: Everest climbing season has officially ended, with six deaths recorded. More than 160 climbers and 240 Sherpas reached the summit.
> 2015: No one climbed Mount Everest for the first time in 41 years due to the avalanche triggered by the tragic earthquake in Nepal.
> 2014: The worst accident to date on Mount Everest occurred when an avalanche killed 13 Sherpas with many missing.
> 2013: A divisive beginning with an altercation between climbers and Sherpas plus nine deaths logged.
> 2012: Hundreds of climbers were bottle-necked at high altitudes waiting to summit. The picture above that left people around the world gasping for air illustrated the mass commercialism (and danger because of it – 11 climbers died waiting to ascend) that has become linked to the famous mountain.
The following are excerpts from a National Geographic interview with Garrett Madison, President and Founder of Madison Mountaineering – and a veteran mountaineering guide, that highlights what’s been going wrong.
Has the growing number of climbers and different outfitters made Everest less safe?
What we’re seeing now with recent Western climbers is people getting in over their heads. …they don’t climb together as a true team. They’re individuals going up and down the mountain who are sharing logistics and services. When they get into trouble, they’re on their own.
…ragtag groups of amateur climbers…don’t have a support network, i.e., a professional mountain guide, to make decisions and intervene and try to save them.
…a lot of amateur climbers without the knowledge and experience pushing themselves so far that they can’t get back down.
Do you think in the future there will be more regulation of…companies on Everest?
… I think it will be a long time coming. The Nepalese government makes money off the number of climbers who decide to try Everest, at $11,000 per foreign climber. If they start to regulate how things are done, I think that will diminish the number of climbers, which diminishes the royalty fee the government gets.
Same story, different year. Here’s hoping 2017’s outcomes are different.