May 31, 2005

The push for the summit of the world's tallest mountain started late this year. In the last 24 hours or so more than 50 people have summited Mount Everest and more summits are expected in the day to come. The climbers still heading up had better hurry as the climbing season on Everest officially ends on Wednesday.

The normal summit window on Everest is in early May when the jetstream moves away from the 29,035-foot peak and before the spring monsoons arrive. The best dates for a summit push usually fall around May 10, the exact date of the 1996 summit attempts that left several climbers (both vetrans and novices) dead and were documented by Jon Krakauer in his magazine article Into Thin Air (later expanded into a book), but this year the weather on the mountain has forced a delay and hence the last minute push. Many mountaineers, actual and armchair, deride the current practice of guided ascents of Mt. Everest as too easy ("a golden road to the summit"). There is no doubt, however, that life above 8000 metres can be deadly on Everest. There have been more than 2000 summits of Mt. Everest and there have been 196 deaths. The most common contrast drawn is to the world's second highest mountain, K2 (less than a 1000 feet "shorter" than Everest), the "Savage Mountain" which has hosted only just over 200 humans at it's highest point and has claimed the lives of more than 50. And it's true that so far no one has flown a helicopter to the summit of K2.

  • Interesting, I am quite the armchair mountaineer. Those guys who flew up there in the copter, they were on a whole assload of oxygen I assume, or stayed inside their pressurized copter? I always heard if you went from sea level straight up to the summit you would pretty much drop dead instantly.
  • Well, that pilot didn't come from sea level, but probably from Namche Bazar. And he had oxygen and shouldn't stay too long at high altitude or he would get altitude sickness or oedema. I predict that next climbing season the commercial expeditions get together and hire one of these eurocopters to be standby to rescue their rich clients. If the weather permits it, of course, and it often doesn't. I have a cousin who climbed both Everest and K2. I'd never do it since I consider expeditions with carriers/sherpas/bottled oxygen unethical and I couldn't physically do without those. Besides that I don't think people who climb Everest really enjoy it. I prefer to climb a nice rock face and don't mind if I don't reach the summit. Although rappelling 25 pitches is not very fun either (Yes, I've done that.)
  • I'm not the outdoors type myself, and I would never think of climbing a neighborhood mountain much less Everest, but I do like to follow what happens each May. I usually follow these guys but they haven't done Everest in a few years. However, I don't think that using sherpas as guides is particularly unethical provided you still get to the summit under your own steam.
  • I posted a while back about a guy doing it the "old-fashioned way" without support ... although he does have Blog about it and was successful. I think anyone who makes it up there is pretty darn tough. I've climbed several Colorado 14'ers and at least for me, the air starts getting pretty skinny around 12,000 feet.
  • mountain climbing is TOTALLY lost on me. all that work just to get to the top of something? i'll pass.
  • It's a challenge, SideDish. Extreme without a doubt, but still just a challenge. Surely you enjoy a challenge. ;-)
  • If I want a freezing challenge I'll try to get to the bottom of a big carton of Ben & Jerry's all by myself, and do it without a sherpa for assistance.
  • dude! Mathowie linked this thread. (scroll down a bit.)