Corpses on Everest
December 7, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Corpses on Everest

Pictures of corpses on Everest. Via Reddit.
posted by josher71 (90 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good times.
posted by Pants McCracky at 7:08 AM on December 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sad. I wonder if it was worth it to them. I wonder if their families feel the same way.
posted by bondcliff at 7:10 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before I click through, are these artfully taken photographs that contrast the stark monumentality of nature with the frailty of the bodies that housed spirits bold enough to challenge it?

Or is this the equivalent of finding a dead body and poking it with a stick?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:10 AM on December 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sad, but interesting.
posted by Forktine at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2010


It's kinda both.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:13 AM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or is this the equivalent of finding a dead body and poking it with a stick?

I was certainly expecting that, but I think it's really a better link than that. I'm glad I clicked.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:14 AM on December 7, 2010


(via Reddit most recently, perhaps; but originally via an ancient AskMe post of mine, that was via a [now unfindable] Something Awful Forums thread...)

(I claim no ownership of either the photos or the concept, obv... but every photo on that page was found, either by y'all or by SA Forum goons, all those years ago in response to those questions.)

(I'm not saying that this takes anything away from anyone involved in this article... just trying to advance MetaFilter civic pride.)
posted by cadastral at 7:15 AM on December 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


Cadastral, wow. That's pretty cool.
posted by josher71 at 7:17 AM on December 7, 2010


You guys wanna go see a dead body?
posted by chillmost at 7:18 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not really safe for breakfast.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:19 AM on December 7, 2010


Can we just stop with the [via Reddit!]? It is just silly, and leads to things like people talking about "well actually I saw it via something else" when instead we could be talking about WTF CORPSES ON EVEREST JESUS CHRIST THAT IS CRAZY.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:23 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, this is pretty intense. When you think about the fact that these bodies can't be taken off the mountain the wording that the mountain "claimed" them is very apt indeed.
posted by sonika at 7:26 AM on December 7, 2010


Mortality rate per ascent = 10%. Repeat, 10%. And Brashears has done it 5 times. These climbers is crazee.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:29 AM on December 7, 2010


Yes, they are aware of the problem.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:29 AM on December 7, 2010


Why do the pictures have some transparency to have the tree background show through? That's pretty distracting from this otherwise neat link.
posted by Phantomx at 7:30 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mental Wimp,
That's the mortality rate per successful summit.
The success rate is ~29% according to this site.

But still, a fatality rate of 2.5% is still too high for me. Interesting to note that age didn't greatly change your chance of success/death.
posted by Crash at 7:34 AM on December 7, 2010


Right. Another entry on my list of 'Reasons To Keep My Ambitious Tiny And Manageable'.
posted by RokkitNite at 7:35 AM on December 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Great link. I've read a lot about Everest in the last few years, watched the Discovery channel series about it... so I've heard about the bodies, but from the looks of these pictures, it's actually even more gruesome up there than I realized.

It's still my dream to trek up as far as base camp someday, though. No farther! I have zero interest in actually climbing Everest, I just want to get close enough for a really good look.
posted by dnash at 7:37 AM on December 7, 2010


I don't even like to go to Denver if I can help it and the highest mountain I've ever climbed is Camelback in Phoenix. But I do find the whole Everest concept really fascinating and this, the idea of trudging past bodies that you are just one bad decision or stroke of luck from joining, is part of what I find so compelling. That I don't know why it grips me is just part of the allure, I guess.
posted by padraigin at 7:42 AM on December 7, 2010


Everest gets -- what? -- three or four new corpses a year, on average? All unretrievable above a certain altitude. I wonder how many years it would take before the entire surface area of Everest above that altitude is covered with corpses? Of course, the corpses would be thickest along the main climbing routes. So how long before you have to walk over corpses to get to the top? 10,000 years? That's 30,000-40,000 corpses. Enough?
posted by haricotvert at 7:43 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


At this rate how ling will it take for the death zone to get like that scene with the pile of bodies in the movie 300?
posted by zzazazz at 7:43 AM on December 7, 2010


Resolved: Everest needs a summit tram, or maybe an interior pressurized stairwell.
posted by humanfont at 7:45 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not really safe for breakfast.

Now you tell me ... when I hit that picture of the guy missing half his face to frost bite, I had a bagel jammed halfway into my mouth. Not a nice combo.
posted by mannequito at 7:45 AM on December 7, 2010


I'd known about this for a long time, but the only picture I'd seen was of Mallory. The others seem so incongruous with their brightly coloured clothes - the decay of exposed parts so contrasted with the almost intact clothing. They seem more alien in the environment in the colourfulness than Mallory's tweeds, even though (obviously) those clothes are more suited to purpose.

Mallory's body was firmly identified by name tags in his clothing - a fact that my mother used as vindication for her policy of sewing name tapes into my coats before I went to university. Quite how university halls of residence equate to the Death Zone is beyond me.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:46 AM on December 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


trash on everest.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:47 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is going to haunt me, not necessarily because the photos in and of themselves are disturbing, but because of the implications of what these people gave up for their dream. Imagine stumbling, struggling to get up, and realizing that this is the end of the line for you. Imagine slowly losing consciousness as the cold settles into your bones, feeling utterly alone in the world.

As bondcliff says: was it worth it?
posted by Phire at 7:47 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder which is cheaper: Mounting a fatal expedition up Mount Everest, or traditional cryonics.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Resolved: Everest needs a summit tram, or maybe an interior pressurized stairwell.

Log flume ride.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:49 AM on December 7, 2010


Everest gets -- what? -- three or four new corpses a year, on average? All unretrievable above a certain altitude. I wonder how many years it would take before the entire surface area of Everest above that altitude is covered with corpses?

Imagine when some future, high-tech archaeologists find all these bodies strewn all over the place, unburied and with dates of death spanning such a long period of time. They'll be like, "WTF?"
posted by oinopaponton at 7:52 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


That reminds me. I want a Snuggie© for Christmas.
posted by punkfloyd at 7:52 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


What is certain is that every single one of the 40-odd climbers attempting the summit that day left the man in the cave, whose name was David Sharp

That's a funny name for a cave.

/callous pedantry
posted by Sys Rq at 7:53 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


The sherpas won't touch the dead (or so I remember reading).

I read "Into Thin Air," and was amazed at the idea of people passing by people that were dying just so they could "summit." It take a particular form of callousness and crazy to want to climb Everest.

The "Into Thin Air" there's a passage where the IMAX movie people stop to rescue another party knowing it'll ruin their chances to summit. Or maybe it was the other way around. It been a while, so I don't remember if the film crew were the rescuers or the rescuees.

A friend of mine and I talked about setting up a corpse recovery service where for a fee we'd go up there and bring back some bodies. There is an obvious list of items as to why this would be a bad idea (local laws, funding, the fact that we're not mountain climbers, etc.), but I still think a fortune could be made returning bodies to their loved ones.

I don't understand this obsession with climbing this mountain.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:57 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The frostbitten face photo is of Beck Weathers who describes being left to die and finding the strength to get himself off of the mountain. His book was a pretty awful read, but the first person point of view in regards to being left to die is such an interesting story.
posted by Cheminatrix at 7:57 AM on December 7, 2010


The first weird thing for me, a feeling I've had since long before reading Into Thin Air, is that to climb Everest you have to walk past several bodies, all the while knowing that one in ten people join them.

That kind of macabre activity ordinarily exists only in fiction - Rollerball, or Stephen King's The Long Walk. Plenty of people pursue dangerous activities. But this would be like sky diving onto a field of corpses with unopened parachutes, or scuba diving among anchored skeletons.

The second weird thing is - and it may just be that people find it convenient to talk about both issues at the same time - the corpses are talked about like rubbish. It's rare for us to treat dead bodies with such little regard. I understand why they haven't been brought down, or why nanna doesn't leave flowers every 4th Sunday, but nonetheless..
posted by MuffinMan at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


That reminds me. I want a Snuggie© for Christmas.

Why? Everyone knows a Slanket® is so much better!
posted by elsietheeel at 8:00 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Discussion of this reminds me of Adrianne Rich's Phatasia for Elivira Shatayev. Leader of a woman's climbing team, all of whom died in a storm on Lenin Peak, August 1974. Later, Shatayev's husband found and buried the bodies
posted by rmd1023 at 8:09 AM on December 7, 2010


I wish I could read the text without the pictures. I was fine until I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a hand with all the fingers cut off. So did the guy who was sitting next to Green Boots join him eternally?
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:09 AM on December 7, 2010


Team sets out to clear bodies from Everest's death zone - Sherpa expedition plans to climb some 8,000 metres to remove bodies of dead mountaineers and clear tonnes of rubbish [Guardian, April 2010]
posted by panaceanot at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone who is at all interested in this subject and hasn't read Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air really needs to read the book. (Here's the original Outside magazine article, although the book contains several corrections.) Not only does Krakauer describe the danger involved--eight climbers died on May 10, 1996, during Krakauer's own climb, and he estimated that 10% of the climbers that leave base camp don't come back--but he also makes a case (deliberately or not) that it's not necessarily the thrilling achievement of a lifetime that it's made out to be; one of Krakauer's more controversial claims was that Sandy Hill Pittman, a socialite who was married to the then-publisher of Rolling Stone, was "short-roped" up the mountain, i.e. was more or less dragged to the top by a Sherpa.

Even for people who aren't short-roped, it's not supposed to be that technical of a climb; most of the people who attempt it and don't make it have to bow out because of high-altitude cerebral edema or high-altitude pulmonary edema, which they don't have control over, or because the weather turned bad, ditto. I understand that it's a hell of a view, but sooner or later Nepal will probably just build a cog railway to the summit with pressurized cars.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:15 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jess the Mess: Yes, he did.

Previously on Metafilter: Both have links about the man left for dead, David Sharp.

You see when you are "dead" on Everest, "dead" is a matter of condition in some cases.

Aloof, forbidding, terrifying...

And on Wiki:

Green Boots

David Sharp
posted by elsietheeel at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


And here's the blog of the group Extreme Everest Expedition 2010 referenced in The Guardian article above.

I can only find mention of them reclaiming two bodies from the mountain, but they also removed 1800kg of rubbish.
posted by panaceanot at 8:22 AM on December 7, 2010


For those interested, Wikipedia has a list of fatalities on all 8,000 meter peaks.

While Everest has a huge number of deaths (owing primarily to its popularity), K2 has a much higher fatality-to-summit ratio of, roughly, 1-in-4. The deadliest peak, Annapurna, has a rate of about 40%.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:29 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have a neighbor who plans on attempting an Everest summit. The guy has two very young daughters and a charming wife. They do not appear to be wealthy people, and their only visible means of support is Daddy.

On speaking with this man about this goal, I am struck by a tremendous, clearly selfish ego at work. He is effectively risking not just his own, but his entire family's lives--or at least their futures--by taking this on. It's very disturbing. Oddly, his wife seems to be okay with this. Maybe he has really good life insurance, or maybe his wife has "extracurricular interests."

Still, I find it disturbing on multiple levels.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:39 AM on December 7, 2010


Why do the pictures have some transparency to have the tree background show through? That's pretty distracting from this otherwise neat link.

Paste this into your URL bar and press enter:

javascript:document.getElementById("outer-wrapper").style.opacity = "1"

This fixes it in Safari, slightly different formatting may be required in other browsers.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:39 AM on December 7, 2010


"No study has ever been done on the causes of death on Everest, what it is that makes people sit down and give up sometimes within shouting distance of safety" Is this the same psychology that makes marathon runners collapsing yards from the finishing line?
posted by marvin at 8:43 AM on December 7, 2010


Beck Weathers is the luckiest man on the face of the planet.
He was left for dead TWICE. and almost walked off the face of the mountain.

That '96 season was rough, but when I see or hear about Beck it always make me smile
posted by ShawnString at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2010


Beck Weathers can't climb any more mountains because he'd require an entire platoon of Sherpas to haul his enormous brass balls.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:03 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I see such a scene, the moral is clear to me. It is: Why go to agonizing mental and physical effort to haul yourself up thousands of feet to face this dilemma, when you could have stayed at home with the wife and kids? (I've yet to hear the orphan of a mountain climber testify he's proud of Dad for proving his courage by falling off the Matterhorn, instead of staying home and being a father.) If I ever fell off a mountain, I would shout "Stupid! Stupid!" at myself all the way down, for having willingly and through great effort put myself in a position to fall to my death.

I know that is an heretical reaction. I know there is supposed to be some kind of enormous psychic bonanza from successfully risking life and limb to conquer a mountain. But here's a curious thing. The actual arrival at the summit is always a disappointment in movies like this. The climbers get up there, stick a flag in the snow, wave their arms, shout, and take photos of each other. Big deal. They seem impatient to move on toward the real psychic payoff, which is the masochistic ordeal of the descent, during which they will be hit by storms, lose their ropes, break their legs, etc.
- Roger Ebert, reviewing K2
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:22 AM on December 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Thanks for this link. (I actually liked the transparency on the skies in some of the pictures, though I can't quite articulate why.)

I've had the book High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas sitting around for about a month now and have intended to get around to it soon. It's my understanding that it deals with the ethical issues surrounding Everest -- I was particularly startled by the economic opportunism from the blurbs I read. I haven't yet read it so I don't know if it's any good, but thought I'd put that out there as another book on the subject.
posted by Nattie at 9:39 AM on December 7, 2010


Just reading and looking at this makes me feel cold.
posted by Mister_A at 9:44 AM on December 7, 2010


Thanks to everyone for fleshing out my post with some awesome links.
posted by josher71 at 9:47 AM on December 7, 2010


If you've never seen Touching the Void, give it a shot. I believe it's in Netflix instant streaming right now too.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2010


"I wonder if it was worth it to them."

Of course. What is life for if not for living? Living for some means staying at home, being a family man, etc. But that doesn't work for everyone.

Everyone gets one life. It's up to them to decide how to spend it.
posted by Eideteker at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The second weird thing is - and it may just be that people find it convenient to talk about both issues at the same time - the corpses are talked about like rubbish.

Mountain climbers that don't want to fail have better things to do than worry about rubbish of any kind. The whole mountain is strewn with trash by people led up the mountain by nameless sherpas in order to wait in a line to stand for a moment at the actual summit. I know there are people trying to pick up the tons trash, and sherpas are finally starting to get some name recognition, but the whole thing just reeks of consumerism, greed, ego, and waste. Even the corpses slowly decay wrapped in thousands of dollars of technical plastic clothing, as bright and shiny as toys at the municipal dump. I'm being melodramatic, but it just seems like the whole man versus nature is so ingrained in these people that man better come out on top, even if it means littering the mountain with garbage and lesser humans. It's fucking crass.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:36 AM on December 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


When I was climbing I kept a careful accounting of my friends and partners who died in the mountains. Or in car accidents coming home from those mountains. Or plane crashes on the way to them. Some died on big, hard routes. A lot more died in stupid, avoidable accidents. Some actively bit off more than they could chew. Others drew a bad hand. Luck played a big part. But sometimes guys made their own luck - good or bad. I lost a lot of friends over the years.
Mark Twight, on his site, which has a lot of good mountaineering reading, some interesting videos also.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2010


I rarely feel the need to say, "ethics, schmethics" but when you push yourself beyond the reach of rescue technology, you're on your own.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2010


Everyone gets one life. It's up to them to decide how to spend it.

There you go.
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on December 7, 2010


Is this the same psychology that makes marathon runners collapsing yards from the finishing line?

It's worth noting that she collapsed not after a marathon, but after a marathon after a century after a Very Long Swim.
posted by entropone at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2010


That's the same thing I said, but a narrower reading. Spend, expend, end.

Man, I'm feeding you fucking PEARLS of poetry here.
posted by Eideteker at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2010


Mountain climbers that don't want to fail have better things to do than worry about rubbish of any kind. The whole mountain is strewn with trash by people led up the mountain by nameless sherpas in order to wait in a line to stand for a moment at the actual summit. I know there are people trying to pick up the tons trash, and sherpas are finally starting to get some name recognition, but the whole thing just reeks of consumerism, greed, ego, and waste. Even the corpses slowly decay wrapped in thousands of dollars of technical plastic clothing, as bright and shiny as toys at the municipal dump. I'm being melodramatic, but it just seems like the whole man versus nature is so ingrained in these people that man better come out on top, even if it means littering the mountain with garbage and lesser humans. It's fucking crass.

It's like the conquest of the mountain isn't in standing on top of it, it's in burrying it under garbage in an attempt to stand on top of it.
posted by entropone at 11:23 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've had the book High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas sitting around for about a month now and have intended to get around to it soon. ... I haven't yet read it so I don't know if it's any good, but thought I'd put that out there as another book on the subject.

I've read it, and it's a good book and a chilling read. There are two main narratives -- a case in which a maverick guide may seems to have abandoned his client in order to summit, and the story of the author's own Everest expedition, which was plagued by logistical problems and unscrupulous adventurers. (For example, prepositioned supply caches are sometimes looted by other, less well-prepared climbers.) It also discusses the widespread trash on the mountain and drugs and prostitution in Sherpa villages.

Into Thin Air planted the seed of dislike for the Everest industry, but High Crimes harvested it.
posted by Gelatin at 11:31 AM on December 7, 2010


I'm being melodramatic, but it just seems like the whole man versus nature is so ingrained in these people that man better come out on top, even if it means littering the mountain with garbage and lesser humans. It's fucking crass.

You're not only being melodramatic; you're talking about a very small number of the many, many people who make the ascent. The vast majority leave no trace.

I'm not a mountain climber, but I get why people do it -- it's the same reason I backpack and scuba dive. And invariably in discussions about these activities some jerkoff bitches from his comfy office chair about how backpackers and divers are polluters wrapped in pricey gear.

Yeah, a small number are. And those people are despised by the majority.

It's like the conquest of the mountain isn't in standing on top of it, it's in burrying it under garbage in an attempt to stand on top of it.

Ummm, yeah. Those guys risk their lives just to toss a Snickers wrapper onto the highest place on earth.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:49 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


....Brown girl in the ring...la dee da de da....
(shuffle shuffle)....its a brown girl in the ring...
*


*having that stuck in your head as you are dying, possibly worse than the death itself. I mean, of all the things in the world, a Boney M song.
posted by zenon at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2010


I think the conclusions Krakauer comes to in his book are pretty succinct: people died on Everest in 1996 because they had paid Hall so much to get them to the top; Hall very likely felt pressured into getting them to the summit. Krakauer also mentioned that the reliance on portable oxygen is also one of the reasons why so many people die summiting high mountains. Portable oxygen allows weaker climbers to ascend to an altitude or climbing conditions where they ought not to be.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:04 PM on December 7, 2010


I also wonder if Rob Hall's body is still up on the South Summit.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:05 PM on December 7, 2010


I also wonder if Rob Hall's body is still up on the South Summit.

According to this his wife asked for the body to be left there although Sherpas had planned to remove it during the clean up expedition earlier this year. I haven't found anything yet that says whether in the end they brought it down or not.
posted by dnash at 12:14 PM on December 7, 2010


Ummm, yeah. Those guys risk their lives just to toss a Snickers wrapper onto the highest place on earth.


No, you misunderstand me, or I wasn't clear. I wasn't talking about the intent, but rather, the effect.
posted by entropone at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sherpas won't touch the dead (or so I remember reading).

...

"The team also hopes to bring down five bodies, one of a them a Swiss mountaineer that perished there two years ago.

'I have seen three corpses lying there for years,' explains Sherpa. 'We'll bring down the body of a Swiss climber who died in the mountain in 2008 and cremate it below the base camp for which we have got the family's consent.'

- Everest Expedition to Clean World's Highest Garbage Dump

The vast majority leave no trace.

Sure doesn't look like no trace.

Leave the poor mountain alone.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:25 PM on December 7, 2010


Also, not enough faces of death. The last one is quite fantastic, but I wanted more pictures. /pre-emptiveeponysterical
posted by mrgrimm at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2010


I came in here to recommend Kodas's High Crimes too. In his view, all the publicity surrounding the 1996 disaster attracted the attention of way more know-nothing egomaniacs than before. And IIRC, he thinks that more of them since then, not content to climb it as mere clients, have gone and opportunistically set themselves up as Everest guides.

Not only are they clueless about weather, snow behaviour, rescue practices and all the other skills and knowledge sets required to have the best chance of bringing themselves and clients down safely. They also skimp on adequate supplies and gear, meaning that they and their clients mooch off of guides and teams who know WTF they're doing and so are decently-equipped and provisioned (though not enough to compensate for being mooched off of, because WTF is wrong with people who go to a life-or-death setting like that and are too arrogant or thoughtless or selfish to give a shit about taking care of their own basic needs for even surviving at high altitudes, much less coming down with all fingers and toes and brain cells, much less their poor "clients"?)

Kodas's "guide" didn't even have enough logistical sense to ration food properly so his people didn't go hungry before they came down. IIRC Kodas quotes a well-known guide there as predicting that this would happen, and telling him that he's seen it all too often, clients who trusted shitty and unethical "guides" ending up asking for food and borrowing gear. And unfortunately there's no governing body or professional association of Everest guides that can enforce that people calling themselves "Everest guide" actually have a clue WTF they're doing.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:51 PM on December 7, 2010


An area along the northeast route to the summit has earned the unassuming nickname of "Rainbow Valley", simply because of the multicolored down jackets of the numerous corpses littering the hillside.

.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:10 PM on December 7, 2010


has anyone said this yet ?

Maybe it's time to stop climbing Everest.

If you want to do something kickass, try to get into orbit in an amateur rocket or something cuz Everest is full up.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:24 PM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's time to stop climbing Everest.

But.. it's THERE!
posted by sonika at 3:12 PM on December 7, 2010


Maybe it's time to stop climbing Everest.

I'm doing my part.
posted by The World Famous at 3:14 PM on December 7, 2010 [17 favorites]


In a way it's too bad corpses don't last longer than they do.

Pictures of Everest corpses always occasion deep discussions about what life's about, whether climbs should be limited to experts, the humbling of realizing that sometimes you're powerless to do anything. There's nothing like trying yourself in the great outdoors - even if it's nothing more than a fantastic view from a high point - to jar us into some healthy perspective.

NOVA on Mallory
This story reminds me of Ed Ruess:
Delmar Fadden, 1936, Mt. Rainier
posted by Twang at 3:46 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess some people need to climb the highest mountain in the world to prove that they really are alive. And I gather they are prepared to pay for the attempt with their lives. I don't understand how these people manage to turn off the instinct for self-preservation but then I also don't understand, with all that we know, how some people can continue to smoke, or text while driving.

One reaction to these stories and photos is, "what a waste!" But can I say that because I didn't kill myself climbing a mountain that I lived a better life or died a better death? If I were going to deliberately risk my life doing anything I'd want it to be doing something really, really special. Make that really, really, REALLY special. Like Mt. Everest.

Hats off to Jon Krakaur for capturing the spirit of these people and their fatal pursuits in "Into Thin Air". A wonderful read.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:05 PM on December 7, 2010


I climbed it twice so who am I to talk. Suck it haters.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:33 PM on December 7, 2010


does anyone have a link for the someting awful thread on this ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:35 PM on December 7, 2010


Read:

Into Thin Air

High Crimes

Dead Lucky

The Climb

Ghosts of Everest

Dark Summit

And the Hell of it is that it's not even the hardest mountain in the world to climb.
posted by bwg at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


You're not only being melodramatic; you're talking about a very small number of the many, many people who make the ascent. The vast majority leave no trace.

Yeah, a small number are. And those people are despised by the majority.

Ok, explain something to me then. According to this website, there have been about 4,000 attempts at climbing the mountain. And according to this website, it says that those 4,000 attempts have been tried by 2,700 people. Now, I'm not talking about mountain climbers in general, just the ones who attempt to climb Everest. How the hell does a "small number" of 2,700 people create this much litter? I completely agree with oneirodynia and think your statement of "Those guys risk their lives just to toss a Snickers wrapper onto the highest place on earth" seems pretty accurate actually.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2010


I climbed it twice . . . Suck it haters.

That's all you have to contribute?
posted by stargell at 7:03 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


How the hell does a "small number" of 2,700 people create this much litter?

Because major climbing expeditions are like pyramids, with a tiny number of climbers who will summit supported by a much larger array of supporting people (porters, etc) who create the infrastructure (eg basecamps) that allow the small number of climbers to summit. That number of people produces a lot of shit (literally and figuratively -- old oxygen bottles aren't the only eyesore in alpine camps).
posted by Forktine at 7:47 PM on December 7, 2010


my girlfriend and I just got back from a trip to Patagonia, on the Argentine side near Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. It was just a backpacking trip, no mountaineering, and the late side of their spring. When we started our hike, the park rangers had warned us that a storm was predicted for the next day with 60 kph sustained winds that could gust at 100 kph. We discussed it between ourselves briefly but opted to go through with it because we were prepared for such things. We had planned, on our second day to hike up to a campsite at the base of the Fitz Roy massif and, weather permitting, ascend 500m to Laguna De Los Tres, this glacial cirque that sits in this gorgeous amphiteatre ringed by Andean peaks Weather was not permitting , and we had made it to the campsite just before the storm, so opted to spend the afternoon in our tents, writing postcards and figured we'd hit the Laguna in the morning.

The morning came and we woke up to four inches of freshly fallen snow. We had prepared for cold, but not snow, so this gave us pause, but still, we're here already. The wind had died down and while snow was still falling, we decided to check out the laguna anyway. Half of the hike was above treeline, and exposed to the remnants of wind gusting through the valley. The snow got deeper and the trail became harder to follow. We'd slip off the path and hit some scree or have our boots plunge through a foot of powder, and while I don't think we were ever in grave peril, we soon realized that it wasn't that hard to make a misstep that broke a leg or twisted an ankle. But the laguna was close, and so we pressed on as trail conditions got icy and the wind started to pick up.

This is to say, for those who were asking about "why do people get themselves in these situations?" -- when you've chosen to trek to a place you sometimes start with a dream, and the dream seems easy and seductive, and you make your plans and you tell people about your plans and you start to lay out some cash for airfare and transfers and gear and lodgings, and then before you know it, you've done all of this work and invested all of this hope in a project. And when you get there, something happens that makes it a little less than ideal ... but you press on, you make the best of it. You're here already and turning back is harder than going forward; and maybe also a little part of you realizes that you may not get a second chance at this. Expeditions with guides are porters are expensive. We only have so much vacation time. You don't want to go home with nothing. So you hope for the best. And sometimes the best happens. Sometimes it doesn't.

Eventually, we got to the laguna, confirmed that, yup, there was nothing to see; and then headed back down. On our descent, we crossed a number of small groups who were making the same trek, and we told them that the views were obscured up there. All but one of those groups pressed on anyway. Once we had turned away from the laguna and the peaks, the view of the valley below was fantastic, so that was something.

The next day, we dropped in on a guide service to talk about arranging a glacier trek. They told us that they were short handed because most of their spare guides were volunteering for search and rescue. A trekking party on the Continental Ice Cap got trapped in that storm that we had just walked out of. The guides got to the party after a couple more days of bad weather, but not before one of the trapped trekkers died due to hypothermia.

You hope for the best and sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't.
posted by bl1nk at 8:29 PM on December 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Because major climbing expeditions are like pyramids, with a tiny number of climbers who will summit supported by a much larger array of supporting people (porters, etc) who create the infrastructure (eg basecamps) that allow the small number of climbers to summit.
when the girl and I climbed Kilimanjaro two years ago, we went with a good, reputable but also relatively cheap guide service. Our ratio of guides and porters to climbers was about 3.5 to 1. We were in a group of 12 climbers, but the entire trekking party was nearly 50 people. While the two of us were specifically conscientious of abiding by Leave No Trace, the trail around us was still periodically litered with cigarette butts and snack wrappers. We'd pick up what we can, but yeah, the littering was a bit of a downer on an otherwise grand journey.
posted by bl1nk at 8:36 PM on December 7, 2010


Climbing Everest is passé LOL you're lame if you try to do it now LOL
posted by Brocktoon at 9:00 PM on December 7, 2010


Can I say that I just love the word "massif." Though I know the derivation, I always picture Ali G saying it.
posted by Eideteker at 6:01 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to know what motivates someone who's eating breakfast to click through on a post titled "Corpses on Everest", with the description "Pictures of corpses on Everest".
posted by gingerest at 4:51 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read an interesting account of the same 1996 year on Everest, claiming that most of what Krakauer wrote in Into Thin Air was incorrect, misleading, or both. (I can no longer find the title of this book.) Unfortunately, it was not one percent as readable as Krakauer's book, and I think the main person the author was trying to redeem died on another expedition.

I still find myself curious about what really happened. I enjoy reading stories about horrible disasters while doing extreme sports (cave diving, climbing the Himalayas, surfing 100 foot waves, etc), perhaps as a way to convince myself I'm not lazy, I have an enhanced sense of self-preservation.
posted by jeather at 7:54 PM on December 12, 2010


I read an interesting account of the same 1996 year on Everest, claiming that most of what Krakauer wrote in Into Thin Air was incorrect

I don't know that I'd say "most of", but even Krakauer himself admits his account was based on what he saw and interviews with the survivors. It is impossible for anyone in that situation, in that environment, to get everything 100% correct. Talk to ten guys who all experienced the same battle and you'll get ten different stories.

I'm always amazed when people say things like "Krakauer was wrong because in Boukreev's book he said..." as if one is more reliable than the other. Personally, I tend to trust Krakauer above all others. He has little to lose, as opposed to Boukreev, who has (had, I guess, since he's now dead) a reputation as a guide to protect. Krakauer is a journalist first, not a mountaineer (though he has a top climber back before his writing career took off). Plus, I've read everything Krakauer has ever written and he seems to be obsessed with getting his stories straight, even being very critical of himself when he gets something wrong. He wrote the book in part to correct some facts he got wrong in the Outside article.

Bottom line is, in 1996 (and other years) some shit went badly, in large part because of pressures to get people to the summit. It's the highest mountain in the world and people want to climb it, even if it's not very pretty and it's strewn with trash. As long as people want to get up it, and they're willing to pay, someone will be happy to take their money. This is a bad combination and it's only going to lead to more and more deaths unless they shut down access to the mountain or put some sort of quota on it. It's big business for the locals though, so that probably won't happen any time soon.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 AM on December 13, 2010


And then there are those who are murdered by the Chinese army....

Murder in the High Himalaya
posted by cyndigo at 12:18 PM on December 15, 2010


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