"Historically, more Everest climbers have perished from severe weather, HACE, HAPE, exhaustion, falling from steep terrain, or some combination of these hazards than from being crushed or buried in the Khumbu Icefall. This seems to be changing, however. Accurate weather forecasting has reduced the risk of being surprised by a killer storm like the one that struck in 1996. But the pronounced warming of the Himalayan climate in recent years has made the Icefall more unstable than ever, and there is still no way to predict when a serac is going to topple over. And sherpas spend much, much more time in the Icefall than their Western employers.
In 1996, for example, I made four round trips through the Khumbu Icefall: three circuits as I progressively acclimatized to twenty-four thousand feet during the month of April, and a final round trip on my journey to the 29,035-foot summit and back. I was terrified each of the eight times I moved through the frozen chaos, which usually took more than three hours to ascent, even with my nearly empty backpack, and slightly less than an hour to descend. In contrast, each of the sherpas supporting my team’s ascent was required to make something like thirty trips through the Icefall, often while carrying eighty-pound loads of food, propane, and bottled oxygen. "
A decade ago Anker, with his wife, Jenni, founded the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) in the village of Phortse to improve the mountaineering skills of Sherpas and thereby increase the safety margin for everyone on Everest. Many of the center’s 700-plus graduates are now working for outfitters on the mountain. The Sherpas, after all, are the ones who perform most of the rescues. Danuru Sherpa, a KCC graduate who has summited Everest 14 times, told me he has dragged at least five people off the mountain to save their lives.
“One of the obvious problems is that clients don’t respect the knowledge and experience of Sherpas,” Anker says. The Sherpas are, in a way, partly to blame. Most of them are Tibetan Buddhists whose culture and religious principles discourage confrontation. “Clients sometimes disregard their advice and die,” Anker says. “Last year was a case in point. We’re trying to help the Sherpas become more assertive.”
« Older Life Sentences: The Grammar of Clickbait... | That's right folks, Field of D... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt