“The worse things that happen, the more people come.”
April 9, 2016 7:01 PM   Subscribe

 
An engrossing read. The guy is doing great work, and I feel for his indecision.

Everest/Sagarmatha/Chomolungma is such an epic clusterfuck. It's unbelievable how many corpses (amongst the trash) litter its slopes, and people just trek on by the dead and the dying alike.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:40 PM on April 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


http://www.outsideonline.com/1915676/photo-captured-2012-climbing-season

My deep hope was that the number of climbers on Everest would be reduced. But I fear that I’ve made Everest more popular with this picture. People may start thinking, If there are so many people, I can also queue up. It was my hope to make more people understand that this has nothing to do with mountaineering, that it's a trophy hunt. But I don't think people got the message.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:25 PM on April 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm fascinated by Everest stories. I'm a mountain hiker, but not a technical climber. And somehow I'm just missing the gene which makes me want to summit. But many of my friends are climbers as well as hikers. The story of Nils Antezana freaks me out completely.
posted by frumiousb at 9:51 PM on April 9, 2016


I read a long book about the 1920's British expeditions and it kind of made me want all the white people to be strangled in their tents. Among other things, the attempts to climb the mountain were an expression of raw colonial might (it was very very hard for an expedition to even get within sight of the mountain; both physically and because the people whose country it was in did not want them there). Now, it's as if all that nationalist arrogance still exists as energy but has been transferred to individual egos.
posted by thelonius at 10:09 PM on April 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


Recently, a prominent person in the Squamish, BC area was killed after an accident in which he died, hours before his wife gave birth to their child. The accident had to to do with something in his adventure routine going badly--comparable to the guys who wingsuited into a rock wall by missing a notch at which they were aiming. A coworker of mine from Squamish said they all knew the guy and talked about his death in terms of when, not if, because his adventure-seeking was escalating in riskiness.

I asked if anyone had thought about doing anything, akin to staging an intervention: "Dude, you're exhibiting classic junkie behaviour, constantly seeking a greater adrenaline high."

"Nope."

Everything I hear about Everest screams of this un-addressed problem, of the people involved refusing to acknowledge an adrenaline addiction that puts them into these situations where death is not just more likely, but required to be more likely. It's like the NFL denying they have a concussion problem. Setting up a widows fund just seems fucking pathetic in light of this massive unarticulated problem in the whole arrangement.
posted by fatbird at 10:12 PM on April 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


sounds similar to what top level motor racing was like through until at least the early 1970s ... until Jackie Stewart and others finally really forced the safety issue. There was a stat back then that you could take a Formula One starting grid from say 1970, and at least a quarter of them would be dead by 1975. The sport's still dangerous today, but nothing compared to what it was.
posted by philip-random at 12:37 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read a long book about the 1920's British expeditions and it kind of made me want all the white people to be strangled in their tents..

Into The Silence, by Wade Davis. Highly recommended. The book frames the expeditions against the aftermath of the first world war, the men involved had been physically and mentally destroyed by it. Despite the logistical insanity you can just about see why they wanted to summit the mountain.

But today?
posted by lawrencium at 1:01 AM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't have my copy of Walt Unsworth's history Everest handy, but I believe when the British were first scouting the mountain, today's standard route up the Khumbu icefall was dismissed as obviously too dangerous, and the pre-war efforts focused on the North Ridge.

This often seems to be the case on a mountain, where the physically easiest route is often the most dangerous, whereas a steep rocky and difficult route will be much less exposed to unpredicatable ice and rockfall . Another example is the Linda Glacier route on Mt Cook. Guides drag their clients up snow slopes past collapsing seracs, while the experienced and self reliant parties of climbers use their skills and physical training on the North Ridge or Zurbriggen Ridge.

It's a serious tradeoff that guides make when dragging their American golfer clients up the "easy" routes to the summit. In some ways I am very against professional guiding - to pay someone else to make the decisions on these gambles with your life is kind of horrifying.

Climbing has been a significant part of my identity for just over five years now, and recently I've been confronting the selfishness that's an inherent part of the sport (or lifestyle, as some would insist). Time spent in the mountains is often time away from family and friends, and usually a literal escape from society. While I suppose that's no different to any other obsession, the risks in climbing and other adventure sports are real, and are intertwined with those relationships with your loved ones.
posted by other barry at 3:44 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


it's as if all that nationalist arrogance still exists as energy but has been transferred to individual egos.

Bingo.

Everest mountaineering stories are sort of my perennial hate-read. I was taking about something I'd read recently with my SO and we agreed that it really was indicative of a colonialist impulse in a world with nothing left to colonize.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:08 AM on April 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm fascinated by Everest stories. I'm a mountain hiker, but not a technical climber. And somehow I'm just missing the gene which makes me want to summit. But many of my friends are climbers as well as hikers. The story of Nils Antezana freaks me out completely.

I have friends and close family who are climbers, but somehow I just never caught the summiting bug. Some, probably most, climbers keep a good balance and make consistently smart decisions, but some get into the adrenaline cycle mentioned above and find ways to make each climb more "extreme" (and risky) than the one before. And even the safest and smartest climbers sometimes get caught by storms or equipment failure, and rely on a lot of sacrifice and worry by their families.

Everest is a really strange phenomenon, though, because it comes with so much risk while having almost no barrier to entry. If you can pony up the guiding fees, you can try to climb it, basically, unlike more remote big mountains that require a lot of planning and experience before people can even consider attempting them. That photo above of the conga line of climbers amazes me every time I see it, and seems so at odds with what attracts the climbers I know to mountains. Instead of isolation and remoteness, here is the same experience you get going through a TSA security screening on a busy travel weekend.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 AM on April 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: I don't think people got the message.
posted by sneebler at 6:50 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


It would be nice if some kind of temporary moratorium was placed on climbing (1, 5, 10 years?), to clean up, to reassess and rethink the entire adventuring/climbing/mountaineering industry. Based on what I've read, and I've read lots of articles similar to this one the past few years. It looks like it is only going to get worse.
posted by Fizz at 7:18 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm fascinated by Everest stories. I'm a mountain hiker, but not a technical climber. And somehow I'm just missing the gene which makes me want to summit.

Even if you don't have the "summitting bug", others may force it on you. I heard Alison Levine speak at a function last year; she led the first all-female American team to summit Mt. Everest. She actually attempted the trip twice, because the first time she couldn't reach the summit due to weather.

The thing about climbing Mt. Everest is that you have to climb up and down the same part of the mountain a whole bunch of times. Even Base Camp is at such an altitude you have to hike up there and then camp out to adjust, or else get altitude sickness. Once you're ready to go on, you hike to the next highest camp up and then immediately turn around to go back to Base Camp. Then you hike back up to the next camp, and then stay there a few days. Then you go on to the following camp, and then turn around and go all the way back to Base Camp. Then you go back up the the first camp, and then up to the second camp, and then you stay THERE for a few days. And so on.

So, the part of Alison Levine's speech that has stuck with me the most is that after her first failed attempt to summit Everest and she had returned to the States, her friends would introduce her at parties and the like by saying, "This is my friend Alison, she climbed Mt. Everest!" And the other person would say, "No way, what was that like? Standing on top of the whole world!!!!" Then she would explain that she hadn't made it to the summit . . . and people would respond:

"Oh. So you didn't REALLY climb it, then."
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:35 AM on April 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


It sounds like Morton is doing really good work. It's interesting that he asserts that there's no element of guilt motivating him when the author makes it sound so obvious that he feels personally implicated in the Sherpa suffering caused by Everest climbers. (I was also kind of horrified and shocked-but-shouldn't-have-been that apparently lower-paying migrant construction work in Qatar is even more dangerous for Sherpa workers than Everest work).

I think it also speaks to some of the gender issues that we've discussed on other Metafilter threads (I'm thinking especially of the women-writers thread) that although the piece touched on Morton's marriage and children, it didn't mention even a little how his plan of buying a house and living half the year in Nepal intersects with or impacts his family life.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:51 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


"No way, what was that like? Standing on top of the whole world!!!!" Then she would explain that she hadn't made it to the summit . . . and people would respond:

"Oh. So you didn't REALLY climb it, then."


Uggh.

I'll defend the right of people to dedicate their own lives to risky activities (including summiting Everest) if that's what makes life vibrant for them... but reducing the activity of mountain climbing to the event of summiting is really annoying and is arguably more than half the problem here.
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dave was one of the guides on a two week mountaineering school I took in 2008. He truly is a wonderful guy, and the work of the Juniper Fund is inspiring. Even then he was reticent to talk about Everest (at that point he had summited five times).

At some point during the trip Dave said that you be opposed to what was happening on Everest, but that if you were, you also had to be opposed to the kind of guided trip we were doing, there in the Northern Cascades in Washington. I've thought about that over the years, and ultimately decided that it was one of the few things Dave said that I disagreed with. We, the clients, couldn't have climbed those mountains on our own. But we were learning how, and based largely on Dave's teaching, comparable mountains were soon within my ability. Not so for most of the guided climbers on Everest.

I understand wanting to climb Everest. But I don't understand wanting to do a climb so crowded, and so far beyond what most of the clients could legitimately do on there own. To me, mountaineering is about being alone, far from rescue and ultimately accountable for all the decisions you make or fail to make.

There are so many beautiful mountains in the world that are within the abilities of most Everest clients. I'm tempted to say I don't know why they don't climb those instead. But I do know why. I do know why, but it's a why that I can't remotely identify with or relate to.
posted by tom_r at 1:47 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]




Discovery Channel will be airing the documentary SHERPA later this month.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:59 AM on April 16, 2016


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