EVEREST RANT


 "A lot of unstable characters play out their visions and anarchy here; indeed one seems to forget the link with climbing." John Redhead

Another season on Everest has passed. The guiding companies and their clients once again massed on Everest for another season of debauchery.  Driven by greed, the sponsors and guiding companies support  wealthy dilettantes on the mountain. Driven by ego and the need for recognition, their clients go to great extremes to achieve their objectives. Not satisfied to act in obscurity, high technology communication systems and media are utilized to publicize these affairs to the world. Televisions, Newspapers and Internet sites compete to showcase these men and women  lusting for fame and fortune.

But there is little glory to be had on Everest and fame is fleeting. Many fall short of their objectives.

"Other people just wannabe famous, these people have been touched by the dark force. They are everywhere. Watch out – they are often well hidden or disguised. And sometimes they are your friends". Stevie Haston

Over the years, many have died in the pursuit of Everest’s summit.  High on Everest the dying are tortured. To understand this, read the transcripts of the call from Rob Hall to his family thousands of miles away on a cell phone as he lay dying  in an exposed and lonely place high up on Everest, tormented by pain, hopelessness and loneliness. After a discreet period of time had passed, the conquest of technology that made this last call possible was celebrated.

Strewn about on the  mountain is a great deal of litter; including food wrappers, oxygen bottles and feces. Also on the popular routes are dead bodies from previous years. It is required that aspirants step over or move around these dead bodies because they lie in the way to the summit. It apparently takes too much energy to deal with the bodies, to bring them down or at least to push them into a crevice, so they linger, frozen corpses that get in the way of these mercenaries.

These pretenders do not tackle the great mountaineering problems left on Everest but stick to the safer trade routes. They use an abundance of oxygen and are led up the mountain by guides and Sherpas. Sherpas do most of the work high up, fixing ropes and stomping trails so that clients ca jumar the ropes. They will  tackle the mountain armed with the latest technology including oxygen, cell phone and lap top computer. Most will use a great deal more oxygen than the first ascentionists used many years ago. This year a new tactic appeared in regard to oxygen. One member of a Canadian team, the leader, used his teammates supply of oxygen to improve his sleep when high on the mountain. It is a team effort after all and one of the team must be strong enough to get to the top, he rationalized.

Some have watched people freeze to death from the relative comfort of their tent, distancing themselves, without even making an attempt to help or at least comfort them as they die. They rationalized this as reasonable under the circumstances as they would not want to weaken themselves for summit bid. What would their sponsors think if they spent their energy saving someone else or comforting the dying and failing to summit?

Exploitation of the Sherpas continues. The Sherpas are paid a pittance to perform the most dangerous and exhaustive work, work that Westerners are unable to do and certainly wouldn’t do for the wages offered. Shouldn’t the Sherpas be paid a large salary as they have unique and marketable skills? After all they sometimes die on the mountain. Sherpas get only token credit for any team success even though little could be achieved without their help. The Sherpas are mentioned, almost as an after thought in dispatches. A token picture of our heroes with an arm around a Sherpa may be posted on a web site.

This year on Everest, the Sherpa Babu was brilliant, moving up from base camp and down to a lower camp without oxygen faster than anyone moved before or could have imagined possible. This was one of the most amazing achievements in mountaineering, yet was minimized in the popular press. Also the efforts by a few others on the mountain were admirable. But the overall picture is not impressive.

The debacle on Everest only serves to discredit legitimate climbers and mountaineers and their craft. Men like Rebuffat, Buhl, Weissner, Messner, etc earned the right to be on thr great mountains through their talent and work and an apprenticeship that lasted many years and involved ascents of dangerous and difficult routes on the classic peaks. Unfortunately, legitimate climbers and mountaineers will be lumped together with the pretenders by a public who does not understand the difference between them and are swayed by the media.

Why corporate sponsors want to be linked to the present day activities on Everest is beyond me. It only serves to tarnish their corporate reputation. Surely there are undertakings that are more worthy of sponsorship.

Perhaps it would be prudent to ban oxygen on Everest. This would keep all but the talented off the mountain, those who have the experience and talent to have a realistic chance. Everest is not a playground; it is not a sandbox for the rich. Ban oxygen and give it back to the Mountaineers who through hard work and talent can take aim at the real problems left on the mountain. The rest can take on challenges more fitting to their talent and experience.

Bob Bennell
June 2000

Top of Page

Table of Contents