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Everest Queues

Mount Everest Mount Everest

Most of us have seen and been appalled by the images from high on Mt. Everest, of climbers in a long line waiting to move up towards the summit. We’ve been saddened by the loss of life caused by this unacceptable and unsustainable overcrowding on what to many is the pinnacle of their mountaineering goals.

So what is the cause of this exploitation of noble ambition?, and what can be done to improve the situation?

Thinking back to a time some years ago, I was on the North (Tibetan) side of Everest above advance Base Camp  at a point known as Crampon Point. Here is where climbers fit crampons to their boots in preparation for the snow and ice face leading up to the North Col. (Crampons are sharp points fastened to the bottom of mountaineering boots that dig into snow and ice to prevent boots from slipping).

Here at Crampon Point I came across a climber trying to fit his new and expensive crampons to his boots (also brand new and very expensive).

He was obviously struggling so one of our Sherpa guides went to help. This climber had never worn crampons before, they were not even adjusted to fit his boots and were fresh out of the box.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation on Mt. Everest and is of course, part of the problem. There is no qualification for attempting to climb to the highest point on earth and anyone with enough money will find someone willing to guide, or drag them if necessary, up the mountain, regardless of their lack of experience on big mountains.

It’s somewhat difficult to draw a comparison, but lets say you like “messing about in boats”, but your experience of sailing is limited to a mirror dinghy on the local reservoir on a Sunday afternoon. You are however, wealthy enough to go out and buy the latest ocean going yacht, so you buy your dream boat and immediately set out to sail singlehandedly across the Atlantic Ocean. You wouldn’t would you? No, you would gradually build on your limited experience by achieving more modest goals before attempting such an ambitious undertaking. At least, one would hope so.

If it was compulsory to have a Climbing C.V that included previous experience of Himalayan mountains of say 5000m, 6000m and 7000m before being issued with a permit to attempt Mt. Everest, (by either the Nepalese or Chinese government), this in itself would restrict the amount of climbers on the mountain at any one time whilst still providing an income to the government from peak fees generated by other mountain permits. Indeed, this would also help the people of Nepal in particular, by directing expeditions to the less frequented areas and providing income where it is desperately needed.

The Sherpa people of the Khumbu (Everest Region) have become comparatively wealthy from the many mountaineering and trekking groups that head up to Everest Base Camp and beyond every year. If some of this wealth could be distributed to the less well known areas, not only would it benefit the poorer people, but it would give mountaineers a much more spiritual experience by allowing them to enjoy what mountaineering is really about, getting away from the crowds and climbing in pristine areas off the beaten track.

Something has to be done and it needs to happen quickly. No-one wants to see more images of hundreds of climbers queueing on any mountain or to hear the heart rending reports of people dying because they can't get down the mountain because of a human traffic jam.

Lets us all who love the mountains of the world and the Himalayas in particular, make our voices heard and put an end to this madness NOW.



More in this category: « Boots v Hiking Shoes

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