As I was sat at home this weekend thinking of ideas for my next summer mountaineering expedition, I did as I always end up doing, and found myself watching videos and reading blogs of those who have scaled the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, and successfully returned to share their stories. Of course, the stories you don’t get to read about, belong to those who set off from the Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Everest like the many hundreds of other hopeful climbers, but fail to return.
2012 has been the deadliest year for the Mountain, with more than 12 fatalities this season. Ralf Dujmovits incredible photographs from earlier this year show just why. His image of the snaking trail of climbers all trying to take advantage of the narrow weather window, causing a motorway like traffic jam, shocked viewers around the world. Perhaps the most poignant moment of Dujmovits’ account is his acknowledgment that of the 600 would be climbers he passed on his descent that day, 4 would later perish.
Like many seasoned professionals, Dujmovits has been quick to slam the rather troubling system that allows almost anyone to attempt the climb. Not wanting to stand in the way of those who truly posses the knowledge and experience for the challenge, his views on those who simply have the money and…well, just that, are worth a read.
“I was also filled with sadness [for] this mountain, for which I have immense respect together with the experienced sherpas, that a great deal of that has been lost. People nowadays treat the mountain as if it was a piece of sporting apparatus, not a force of nature. It really makes my soul ache.”
“…it takes no skill to do what most of the tourists to Everest do. The growing trend in the last 10 years has been to use oxygen almost from base camp onwards, whereas for decades it was only considered to be normal to use it from 8,000m onwards. Now they drink it like it was water.”
When I first started climbing mountains, my guide Owen (and now my climbing partner) told me one very simple saying by Reinhold Messner that is worth more than any kit or story; ‘Mountains are not fair or unfair – they are just dangerous’. Perhaps Everest can wait.