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June 1, 2012 3:27 pm, by Mark Horrell<< Return to blog home

5 media myths about Everest busted

There’s nothing some journalists like more than a bit a death. It generates controversy, helps sell copy, and gives them an opportunity to drum up hatred against people who live more interesting lives than they do. And this year on Everest 10 people have died, the highest death toll since 2006. Combine this with German climber Ralf Dujmovits’ photo of climbers queueing up the Lhotse Face that’s getting buzzed around the world, and they’ve been having a field day.

The photo of climbers queueing on the Lhotse Face by German climber Ralf Dujmovits that's getting everybody hot under the collar

The photo of climbers queueing on the Lhotse Face by German climber Ralf Dujmovits that’s getting everybody hot under the collar

For example, when my team mate Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson got back to Base Camp on May 22, he decided to write a blog post about his summit day in his usual stream-of-consciousness style, which involves writing all the thoughts that are going through his mind as he climbs. When he got stuck behind slow climbers on the Second Step with teddy bears strapped to the back of their packs, one of Axe’s thoughts was how much he’d like to stick those teddy bears up their backsides. A Kiwi journalist picked up on Axe’s blog and decided to write not about his incredible climb (he was up to the summit and back down in Camp 3 again five hours before I was) but his lack of sympathy for other climbers. Very quickly Axe became the most hated man in New Zealand, and was getting comments on his blog along the lines of, “you’re not so tuff [sic] Rawlinson, you’ve proved even jerks can climb Everest”.

It’s been a similar story for me when I returned home to the UK, where journalists have been writing all week about how Everest is now so easy to climb that it’s become a stamping ground for middle class obsessives who are only doing it to get bragging rights. In most cases the comments in response to these articles are nothing more than an unmoderated stream of filth and hate directed against Everest climbers.

I’ve read so much ignorant nonsense in the last couple of days written by people who have clearly never climbed, that it’s probably not even worth responding to, but because it’s a sport I love, just for the record I’m going to clear up five of the most common myths getting propagated.

1. Climbing Everest is not easy

Or to put it how one representative of an adventure travel company (of all people) was quoted as saying, you “basically pay your way up Everest these days“. While Everest climbers all pay for different levels of support, from the basic permit fees and base-camp-only services to full one-to-one Sherpa support, all of us still have to climb the bloody thing.

Any fool can do this. They even have ladders.

Any fool can do this. They even have ladders.

My summit push took 6 days, during which I carried around 12kg on most days at extremely high altitude. My appetite was so reduced that I could barely force down half a dozen mouthfuls of food without throwing up, and was living on a starvation diet throughout. More than once I arrived in camp and was immediately sick in the vestibule. My summit day lasted 18 hours, during which I drank no more than a litre of fluid and ate nothing. My mouth was so dry at the end that I felt like I was going to retch up a small piece of my throat. I was mentally exhausted because the North Ridge is basically one long rock scramble which demands concentration almost every single step of the way. We had good weather and frostbite wasn’t a problem, but most Everest climbers also have to wrestle with extreme cold.

Anyone who says climbing Everest is easy has no idea.

2. Climbing Everest is not an expensive way of committing suicide

Mountaineering companies have become so organised on Everest that the mountain is now relatively safe for most people with sufficient climbing experience. Fixed ropes are put up the entire route before anyone starts climbing. These can be clipped into using the double security of jumar and carabiner. The risk of frostbite can be balanced with modern equipment (down suits, down mitts, thick mountaineering boots, electrically-heated hand and foot warmers, and also oxygen which helps with circulation). As you spend more time at high altitude you learn to understand how your body reacts to the lack of oxygen and how long you need to acclimatise. The best operators all carry high altitude drugs and have staff who are trained how to use them. Perhaps most importantly you are not alone on the mountain. I had a personal Sherpa on summit day, Chongba, who has now climbed Everest 13 times, and he never left my side throughout those 18 hours. We both carried radios so that we could get help if separated.

There are still low budget companies operating on Everest. Climbers are far more likely to die if they join one of these outfits and try to climb on a shoestring, but only a small minority of climbers do this and even in these cases other operators usually help out in an emergency.

Here I am ticking my 'bucket list'. Phew - I can go back to beach holidays from now on.

Here I am ticking my ‘bucket list’. Phew – I can go back to beach holidays from now on.

3. I did not climb Everest to put a tick in my ‘bucket list’ and gain bragging rights

I hate the phrase ‘bucket list’, for it suggests box ticking rather than experiencing. This was my 9th visit to Nepal and my 3rd to Tibet. That’s quite a few more ticks than I need if I’m only interested in bragging. High altitude mountaineering is how I like to spend my holidays, in the same way you may like to spend yours sunning yourself on a beach or partying in Ibiza. It’s what I enjoy doing. And as for bragging, when I left work to join my expedition many of my colleagues had no idea I was going to climb Everest. I didn’t tell them.

4. The tragedies did not occur because too many people are climbing Everest these days

Anyone who wishes to gain an insight into how or why deaths occurred on Everest this year should read Alan Arnette’s summary of the whole season, a sensitive account written by a climber who has been on Everest 4 times and is familiar with how a season’s events unfold. It tells of how Everest this year was unusually dry, leading to unseasonal rock fall on the Lhotse Face. Some of the early deaths were not in fact inexperienced clients but highly experienced Sherpas doing load carries. It tells of how heavy snowfall then made a short summit window even shorter.

All of the above happened on the south side, Everest’s most popular route. But Everest also has a north side, where we were, which most journalists don’t seem to be aware of. The north side was very quiet, only about a quarter of the numbers of the south, and the deaths on the north certainly can’t be attributed to traffic jams.

This is as bad as it got on the north side: a small bottleneck at the ladder (top right) but far from being unsafe

This is as bad as it got on the north side: a small bottleneck at the ladder (top right) but far from being unsafe

And then you can look at the numbers. It is estimated around 550 people summited Everest this year, 250 of them in a single 48 hour period on 25/26 May, when not a single death occurred. This demonstrates that the mountain and climbers are capable of coping with traffic jams safely. While traffic may have contributed to the 4 deaths on May 19, it’s not the overriding reason and certainly not the whole story.

5. Walking past a climber who is struggling is not showing a complete lack of compassion and humanity

Of all the myths that get written about by those with no experience, this is perhaps the most emotive, the most hurtful and the most damaging. People read stories of climbers stepping over dead bodies, or walking past exhausted climbers who later die, and conclude we’re all a bunch of heartless bastards who are only interested in reaching the summit at all costs.

Here’s an analogy that a leader from another expedition team gave me when we were back in Kathmandu. If you’re walking home from the pub and you see a drunk by the side of the road who is struggling to walk in a straight line, do you stop and offer to escort him home? Supposing you do, and he becomes abusive and refuses your help, what do you do then? Do you consider it your duty to remain by his side until you see him safely home, or do you get on with your own life and leave him to his? Remember that your wife is waiting up for you and will not go to bed until you’re home safely.

Many of the deaths on Everest occur because people don’t realise when it’s time to turn round, even when they’ve been told to by someone more experienced. When I reached the summit at 10am there was no sense of elation. It had taken over 10 hours, and I knew just how far I still had to go. I still had to get back down the Third Step, the Second Step, the First Step and lots more tricky scrambling demanding all my attention, and I was already exhausted. My only focus during my descent was my duty to my family, to get myself down safely, and to Chongba and the rest of my team, because if I got into difficulties I would be putting their lives at risk by helping me. I finally got back at 5.30pm, and it had been an epic. The idea that I could have stopped and escorted/carried an exhausted or dying person down with me would be laughable were it not so poignant. Also bear in mind that most climbers descending from Everest on summit day are exhausted and struggling, but nearly all of them make it down safely without help. The assumption that if you pass someone who is struggling then you should stop and help them, and if you don’t they will die, is erroneous. Finally, remember that most climbers are members of well-supported teams with resources to call upon in an emergency. In the event of a rescue the casualty’s own team will be the first to help, but other teams will assist where appropriate.

We all have compassion and humanity. We respect the mountain and other climbers. But we’re not all heroes (although here’s one of my Everest team mates who is), and very few of us wish to be martyrs. Unless you’ve been put in that extreme situation yourself and know for certain how you would react, don’t be quick to criticise others.

You can read my report of our climb via the North Ridge and see photos and video of it here. My expedition diary The Chomolungma Diaries is also available as an ebook.

I would like to dedicate this post to the 10 climbers who died on Everest this year. I may not believe any mountain is worth dying for, but I do believe this: that you came from different backgrounds with different motivations, and you all rose above the norm and are resting proudly above the clouds.

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Comments (94)

  1. Jim Davidson said:

    Well said – thank you. Congratulations on your big acheivement!

  2. Pingback: Mt. Everest is Completely Irrelevant: A Response | THE CAMPSITE

    [...] 5 media myths about Everest busted [...]

  3. jonathan dixon said:

    Congratulations on your climb, you’ve done something that very few in the world could dream of. I have always been fascinated by everest, but know there is no way I could cope with the mental and physical efforts needed. It must be very hard to deal with all the negative press, but I think you’ve very eloquently done so here. Best wishes.

  4. Daniel said:

    Thank you very much for writing this report and also the links you included to other reports. I have great admiration for people who climb Everest and friends who have summited yet I still get swayed by the poor reporting.

    Your report certainly helps give some real perspective on what it takes and the conditions on the mountain. Congratulations and thanks again.

  5. Dean said:

    Mark, those are pretty powerful sentiments. Thank-you for sharing

  6. Mark Horrell said:

    Thanks guys for all your kind messages and support. :-)

  7. Pingback: Debunking The Myths About Everest | Mom'eur

    [...] the mountain on the North Side, wrote a very thoughtful and interesting piece in which he addresses five common myths about Everest that the media tends to perpetuate. I found it to be a good read and I thought you would as [...]

  8. Great! Both article and climbing. Well done.

  9. Dean Sawyer said:

    Great achievement. Maybe now you can class yourself as a proper Mountaineer and not just a trekker. My Kindle awaits the full story.

  10. Jim wallace said:

    Thanks for sharing that. ,Unfortunately there will always be ignorant people,but we must ignore them. Most people can’t even complete the training for Everest let alone the climb.Congratulations…,JW

  11. Thank you Mark for important information. I was trekking to base camp this past May and now understand the affect of altitude on the body to a very small extent. I have always been angry over judgemental journalist with no first hand experience that write just to get the story. Congrats on your accomplishment!

  12. Damien said:

    I respect all climbers of Everest but when you leave junk on the mountain and start putting up coffeeshops and bars at basecamp all that respect is forgotten. This mountain is being defaced and disrespected year after year by tourists. Very sad.

  13. Mark Horrell said:

    I didn’t leave trash on the mountain. All our trash was packed up and taken out with us when we left, including all human waste.

    As for coffee shops and bars at base camp, it sounds to me like you’ve not been there? Base Camp on the south side is on a glacier and therefore supports no permanent structures. The nearest tea shops are Gorak Shep some distance further down the trail. These are for use by trekkers on the Everest Base Camp trail, and support the local economy by providing jobs as lodge owners, trekking guides and porters for the Sherpa people who would otherwise by living in poverty.

  14. Art Menichiello said:

    Great article, Mark, it’s one I’ll be sure to bookmark!

    Whether it is knowing you’ve had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel of an automobile, or knowing you’re beyond your turnaround time on summit day, it comes down to personal responsibility. Bottom line is that the individual makes the choice to continue to climb or not–and faces the consequences.

    I guess it’s easy for the armchair quarterbacks and pundits to ignore these facts, and it makes for a good news spot.

  15. Sand Coleman said:

    Thank you for these comments on your achievement – and achievement it is! I am not a climber but a trekker – but I have been in the Khumba Valley and next year I hope to get to Everest Base Camp. People are too quick to jump on the bandwagon and criticise when they know little or nothing about what they are talking about! I have read all of you travel blogs and I find them inspiring and insightful and they help me to prepare for my trek next year. Many people have an ‘Everest’ – yours was to climb the mountain and that you have achieved through hard work and perseverance!! Well done and I look forward to reading more from ‘Footsteps on the Mountain’

  16. Dawa Steven Sherpa said:

    Mark, thanks for your eloquently written thoughts. You really have summed it up in such way that everyone, including non-climbers, will understand the realities of climbing Mt. Everest just that little better. Thank you for this!

  17. Sunil Tamang said:

    Thank you so much for wonderful article.Its my pleasure to get article from the one who has experienced the fact rather than reading random story from journalists.

  18. Mark Horrell said:

    Thanks everyone for all the kind comments over the weekend. I’m gratified to see this post now has as many shares and likes as some of the articles in the Guardian and Telegraph which provoked it. The fact that an obscure post by a relative nobody can be shared as widely as articles published by two of Britain’s biggest newspapers is testament to the strength of feeling among the climbing community and those of you who may not be climbers but have been similarly unimpressed by the lazy and sensationalist reporting of Everest in the popular press.

    Many thanks again and please keep sharing!

  19. Kim said:

    As I left London on 28 May my eye caught the edge of a headline criticising teen climber Leanne Shuttleworth for passing by dead and dying climbers on the way to her summit of Everest. It was pretty timeous as I’d just had a reunion with some of the members of a trek in Pakistan I did 9 months previously where there were 3 fatalities and it did get me wondering how applicable the criticisms were. I am not a trekker nor a mountaineer, but I do a great deal of adventure travel and outdoor sports and it is interesting to compare the differences / similarities that I’ve seen.
    - One of the things I noticed – and commented on to the trek leader – was that after the fatalities was how “selfish” the leader of the other expedition involved in the incident was, despite the incredible amount of assistance rendered by our expedition to their injured. The other expedition sourced all the resources they needed to continue the trek and continued on without much thought as to what our expedition was going to do.
    This seemed contrary to what I’ve experienced in the yachting world where there is the “gentlemen’s code” (which sadly is also dying) of looking after your fellow competitor even if it meant giving up the race.
    - Even within our expedition we had a wide range of ability and the ultimate goal – crossing the Gondagora La – was in doubt before the accident. One person on the trip was very vocal in questioning the trek leader’s decision to abandon the crossing and return back the way we came. His argument was “I’ve paid for this, now I want to do it and I’ll not be able to do it again in a long time.” What surprised me at the reunion the other people who admitted to telling the trek leader the same thing albeit in a slightly less public manner. As much as I would’ve liked to have gone over the pass, I understood and accepted the leader’s decision as it was in the best interests of the group (not sure how much 5 years of living in Asia has influenced that mindset as here the community is everything and the individual nothing).
    I agree, the media today is well known for sensationalising items to sell papers, but I’m not sure that we should let that stop us from asking whether or not they may have a valid point.
    It is funny, but in another post you mention that you are a trekker with climbing ability. At the reunion we discussed the events on Everest and one climber said that Everest is not really considered by serious climbers anymore because of the number of people and the expense. There are other peaks to be climbed.

  20. Mark Horrell said:

    I don’t know what a serious climber is, Kim. I’m not a very good climber but I took the mountain seriously, and it is a serious proposition for any climber whatever their ability. Even Ueli Steck climbed with a Sherpa this year.

    I suspect what you’re referring to is what some call climbing ‘purity’ (see http://www.markhorrell.com/blog/2012/a-short-history-of-cerro-torre/ for an explanation). Sure, fixed ropes and a jumar put even the most technical peaks within the capabilities of climbers of moderate ability, and sure there are other mountains to climb for elite technical climbers. But Everest isn’t about elite technical climbing. The beauty of mountaineering is that mountains come in all shapes and sizes, and consequently its a sport open for all levels of ability.

  21. Damien said:

    Yes thank you western world for providing poor countries like our Nepal enough jobs. We couldn’t have survived without your charity. I still think about the time when our peaks were filled with mystery, reverence and utmost respect.
    It’s good Mark that you care about Everest but can you say the same for all the other climbers out there? Yes I have seen someone with an espresso machine up there.

  22. Mark Horrell said:

    An espresso machine? Heavens above, whatever is the world coming to ;-)

  23. Ken eastwood said:

    Fabulous – very well written and very insightful!

  24. Matt Smith said:

    They now have an expresso machine at EBC?! – it’s finally time to go back. I couldn’t even find a boulder to s*** behind when I was there in 1986!

  25. Damien said:

    I also don’t know how they brought it in but when there is a will (and Lukla airport) there is a way. Now you can sip lattes and chat on your laptop just like back home. Wouldn’t it be funny if when you reach the summit first thing you see is Starbucks. Venti iced caramel macchiato for Mark?

  26. Matt Smith said:

    I see Mark more as a no-nonsense, flat-white kinda a guy, but he’d probably have spent 5 minutes longer at the top if there was a half-done copy of the Times crossword left up there :-)

  27. Mark Horrell said:

    Heehee, I’d have struggled to spell ‘summit’ the state I was in, but liquid of any form will have kept me up there a little longer!

  28. tootingbob said:

    congratulations firstly for making it to the top & back safely. i’ve followed your expeditions efforts via a-j’s website blog and was forwarded your’s and mark dickson’s summit blog by phil’s wife trish & fully understand how tough it was. mark dickson’s account sounded really tough for him.

    just read your guardian comment which i had also responded. i thought Ralf Dujmovits’ comments were self righteous, like he is better than everyone else and his ‘hobby climbers’ dig was pathetic. i am sure congestion at the top was a factor with the descending climbers’ deaths, running down their oxygen but if dumjovit 6th plus climb was to ‘up’ his tally then his comments were even more stupid. remove tally count climbers would help reduce numbers. i am not including those as sherpas/expedition guides all aiding those to fulfil their dream with their experience. do you think climber quotas would help?

  29. Mark Horrell said:

    Thanks, and yes, probably. Our experience was on the the north side, where the CTMA has being taking measures to reduce numbers for a few years now. There was no overcrowding, queues were negligible, and the overwhelming majority of climbers were people with a genuine interest in mountaineering, even if many of us weren’t exactly elite climbers. Of course this has pushed the problem over to Nepal, where many of the maverick climbers who used to be prevalent on the north side because of the low permit fees have now moved.

    I think any regulation should be on a team rather than an individual basis. Word is that the CTMA is now targeting operators who provide ‘base camp only’ services and group permits for individual climbers. These operators provide no leadership for the group as a whole and emphasise that climbers are on their own above base camp. Many of preventable deaths occur with these operators because they take no responsibility for their clients when they get into trouble on the mountain. I know there are many people who champion the ‘independents’ who would not agree with this view, but there are probably sufficient numbers on the south side now that there is justification for saying that climbing Everest ‘on the cheap’ is no longer an option.

    As for the frivolous people who feel the need to carry their bikes up, climb in shorts, etc. and also those who are much too old or unfit, have never climbed before, just want to put a tick in a box, have serious disabilities which make climbing Everest too dangerous a proposition, etc, etc. yes, I’d rather they weren’t on the mountain, but as I say there was no evidence this was a serious problem on the north side, and it should be the responsibility of the operators to make a judgement call and filter people out accordingly, though of course not all of them do.

  30. Pingback: 5 Everest horror stories – Footsteps on the Mountain

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  32. peter jones said:

    Well done for getting to the top but I have to take you to task on a few points. No-one that I have talked to would argue that everest is not hard work but it is easy technically ( yes I do climb), It has been made safe not just for those “with sufficient climbing experience” but also those without climbing experience. You may not have climbed everest for your bucket list or to brag (power to you) but many do. Too many people on the mountain is a contributory factor whatever you say, but I would write it too many inexperienced untalented people on the mountain is a contributory factor.

    Your analogy with a drunk is poor and exemplifies why many people have no respect for people who climb everest. Before you ask have I climbed it …no, have I been to high altitude yes 7600m, climbed hard alpine ED’s and been on ten Himalayan trips of my own. Do I have a desire to climb Everest…. not at all…m`inly because of the people I meet who have!

    Sorry just a different viewpoint.

  33. Mark Horrell said:

    No, the mountain is not safe for people without climbing experience. Yes, too many inexperienced people on the mountain is a contributing factor. I made this point myself in the last sentence of no. 4. What the deaths on May 19 had in common is they all kept going in spite of the advice of their Sherpas.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, and there’s no need for you to climb Everest if you don’t want to, but if you’re implying in your second paragraph that we’re all unpleasant people who are doing it for the wrong reasons then you haven’t met the right people.

    There’s a good article about commercial climbing on Everest that I saw recently on National Geographic which puts the whole experience into context: http://hoz.me.uk/TmRK72

  34. peter jones said:

    Hi again

    I have climber for 30 years and been on Everest and met lots of Everest climbers and guides…some are great (many of my friends have climbed it) but many people who climb it are egotistical, blaggards buying their way to tick box ‘fame and motivational talks…you may not be one of them but they exist.

    Of course Everest isn’t safe (i was papraphrasing you) …its a mountain…but it is made safer by the commercial companies for people with minimal experience. It is safer by virtue that they are exposed to the danger zones for less, the ropes are fixed for them.

    Climbing any mountain with a commercial company is actually a hollow experience, decision making, judgement calls etc are out of your control and it is this that makes mountaineering such a great experience. Of course its great for people who want to experience the mountains to be taken into them, but when they pretend it equates to real mountaineering then that is when mountaineers start to get annoyed. When vast sums of sponsorship are paid to people to do something that is a parody of real mmountaineering leaving a much smaller pot for those doing something meaningful in the mountaineering world..

    The NG article is pretty good. According to the NG article its a trophy climb – “For people who see it as a trophy, like shooting a lion, then it’s worth it”. I agree but there is hunting a lion alone or having it herded into a cortal and then shooting it…thats what climbing Everest is like.

    His reasoning why experienced climbers dont go on Everest are dubious…its not the reason with the top climbers I know…its the cost mainly and the time required.

    He says “it would take another ten or 20 years as a mountaineer to develop the skills to climb Everest on their own”..I have never heard an everest speaker admit that! He also says “But you are also not making decisions and you are not leading, and those are two critical aspects of what mountaineering is about”…yet I hear very little about the guides and sherpas roles when I hear an everest talker….reaching the top of Everest is a feat of endurance but it is not mountaineering.

    I have no problem with people who reach the top of everest…I just hate listening to the bullshit from them when they return…maybe its not as many as I think but is a hell of a lot.

    I am glad you are not one of them and thanks for the exchange of ideas…like me you are entitled to your opinion…but it doesnt make it correct.

  35. Mark Horrell said:

    Heehee, most of what you say here is true, but it seems to relate mainly to the very small minority of Everest climbers who make a career from public speaking about their exploits. Throughout this blog I have never hesitated to thank our Sherpas for all the help I received from them. I certainly couldn’t have climbed the mountain without them, and the majority of the commercial clients I’ve climbed with are happy to admit this. We’re not out to prove we’re elite climbers, any more than we’re going to play in a pub footy match and pretend that makes us Wayne Rooney.

    Whether it’s a ‘hollow experience’ depends on what your motivations are for climbing. For me I love the easy pace of expedition life, which takes me away from the 9 to 5 day job in an office; I feel privileged to be among some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, and am always glad I’ve had to exert myself to get there. There’s also a sense of history about Everest, and I like to visit places I’ve read about; the best way to follow in the footsteps of Mallory is to get up to the Northeast Ridge and see for yourself. I always get a sense of satisfaction from reaching a summit, even just getting to the top of a hill in the UK that I’ve simply walked up. It doesn’t matter to me how technically difficult it is, and the experience certainly isn’t hollow.

    On the other hand, if you see yourself as a shit hot climber, then sure, I imagine jumaring up a fixed rope is pretty hollow. Although what you say is true, there’s a sniff of the Nick Bullock style elitism about it, which comes from a narrow, very personal, view of the world. Not everyone climbs Everest for the same reasons, but many of those reasons are perfectly valid.

    Thanks for your comments, though. I do genuinely appreciate them – it’s always interesting to hear different perspectives. :-)

  36. peter jones said:

    Hi yes it is interesting to talk frankly about this issue and you may be correct that it is a smaller number of people than I think, but from my experiences it is a substantial number. It is not about elitism, that has nothing to do with it, it is about truth and honesty. I fight a lonely battle to stop the dumbing down of wild places so that anyone can visit.

    “When all the dangerous cliffs are fenced off, all the trees that might fall on people are cut down, all of the insects that bite are poisoned…all of the grizzlies are dead because they are occasionally dangerous, the wilderness will not be made safe. Rather, the safety will have destroyed the wilderness.”
    - R. Yorke Edwards (Canadian environmentalist)

    Its not about elitism.. i do climb hard but also enjoy simple routes, its not about the technical difficulties its about the experience.

    If you enjoy simple summits and the easy pace of expedition life why not organise your own trips and make your own decisions and judgements.

    I know someone who was guided someone across Greenland plastered in sponsors, Was going to return home to South Africa as the first person to reach both poles and cross Greenland and be a hero fetted by her sponsors, she had been guided to North and South Poles and she was completely incompetent. I also know someone who crossed greenland and sat on his guides sledge as the guide kited. He returned and didn’t mention these events at all.

    I am afraid that the tick box, quick result mentality of many so called adventurers does affect the real world of adventure as more and more places are dumbed down to allow anyone to go there. I hate the term professional adventurer it is akin to being a media slut. Take oxygen from Everest..then it may become a valued objective again.

    Its good to talk

  37. Mark Horrell said:

    I agree with you here. I do organise my own trips as well, though to much easier objectives than Everest. I’m also very pleased to have done many guided trips which took me to places I would never have been on my own.

    You are right about truth and honesty. There’s no shame in admitting when you’ve been guided – all the great explorers valued local knowledge after all!

  38. peter jones said:

    Hi Mark, there is a big difference between being guided and gaining local knowledge! Before I do anything I ask myself would I still do it if I couldnt tell anyone about it.

    happy thoughts

  39. Mark Horrell said:

    I wholeheartedly agree, though I’m an amateur traveller so I’m able to pick and choose where I go. I guess anyone who hopes to make a living out of travel sometimes has to take other factors into consideration. Of course, as you point out, they should also be honest about it.

  40. Dominic said:

    Great discussion. I am a climber, never been to Everest. Don’t have the desire, don’t have the money, and most likely its beyond my ability to climb the mountain under natural ability without 02.

  41. Dominic said:

    Here is a different point of view, from a pro with boat loads of climbing experience. http://explore-mag.com/359/adventure/a-mountain-of-hype-everest

  42. Mark Horrell said:

    He’s one of the many climbers who has a problem with people who climb Everest and then go onto have a career as motivational speakers talking about it.

    He’s right that most of us wouldn’t be able to climb the mountain without Sherpa support or supplementary oxygen. I’ve certainly never claimed otherwise in any of my blog posts, and have always given the Sherpas who have helped as much credit as I can.

    He’s wrong that 3999 of us want to be motivational speakers. It’s never been of any interest to me, and nor has it to most people. He’s allowed himself to become blinkered by the vocal minority. I climbed the mountain because I enjoyed it; it was an amazing experience and if other people have a problem with that for whatever reason, I can’t change that.

  43. Matt Smith said:

    Regardless of what may be reported about climbers who go on commercial expeditions and their motivations for attempting the big peaks, there are some salient facts that are generally overlooked by the media. Despite the supplementary oxygen, fixed ropes and free booze at base camp, commercial climbers still have to put one foot slightly above the other for a very long time, just as their tweed-coated counterparts did almost a century ago. I’ve never read an account by anyone who’s actually climbed Everest – novice or expert – that said “actually, it was all rather easy”. There is evidently an immense amount of physical effort and discomfort involved, not to mention the psychological barriers that must be overcome, in addition to the physical ones. When they build a cable car to the South Summit and a handrail up to the top, then I will believe that Everest is easy!

    Maybe a few of the less experienced climbers who take on the big peaks don’t know exactly what they’re letting themselves in for, but I’m sure that the majority are under no illusion of what’s required. There’s 2-3 months off work for a start, which for most would involve resigning from their jobs or at the very least, taking an extended period of unpaid leave. Then there’s the huge financial outlay. Even on decent income, it would take someone several years to save up the $30,000 to pay to climb Everest, not to mention the previous trips one would need to get the experience. Then there is the strain on relationships – family and close friends wondering if you’re going to come back or not. Many marriages have fallen into that crevasse, even if the climbers have returned home safely!

    If there’s one thing that today’s commercial climbers have in common with those who pioneered mountaineering, it’s that they are prepared to take risks and make the sacrifices to achieve what they want in life. Personally, I find their stories more inspiring than those whose style of journalism is simply scoring points off others.

  44. Mark Horrell said:

    Well said, Matt. Thanks for highlighting some of the other sacrifices Everest climbers make. :-)

  45. Patrick said:

    I’m sorry but since when has humanity started to compare a struggling drunk person on his way home, to a person DYING on the face of a mountain 8000m up who will, if not given help, die within the next 48 hours.

    The analogy ‘busting’ the myth you used is not only completely scaled down as to the severity of the situation, but it’s also insulting to everyone who has died on Everest when people like you walk past them.

    The whole notion of comparing a drunk to a dying person is like saying, all drunks walking home and having trouble, will die on their journey home. Furthermore even if this was true your wife and frankly any other sentient being would understand that saving another persons life is far more important than the need to get home.

    In addition, the comparison of the summit of Everest to your wife waiting at home does actually prove that you are all a “bunch of heartless bastards” since this comparison only implies that, relatively, getting home to your wife is more important than saving another life.

    I completely understand that getting to the summit is not all about ticking the bucket list, but what ever it’s for can never, never, outweigh the imperative to save someones life.

  46. Mark Horrell said:

    Nobody said it did, and if you think that’s what I’m saying above then you have misunderstood. What you do need to understand before you are too critical of Everest climbers is that saving a life isn’t that easy at 8500m, and that getting yourself down safely has to be your first priority or you are likely to put more lives at risk.

    I’m not comparing a drunk person with a dying one, as you imply. I’m using the drunk person as an analogy to illustrate that not everyone you walk past on summit day either needs or appreciates help.

  47. Patrick said:

    So the reason you don’t help people on Everest is due to the fact that because of your self inflicted tiredness of reaching the summit driven by self desires,and it would be futile to help others, at the risk of your own life on the way down? Just because someone is drowning but they also have a possibility of getting out, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them. Better safe than sorry. I couldn’t live with the burden of knowing that I, could, have saved someones life.

    You first say “walking past exhausted climbers who later die” and then go on to say
    “but nearly all of them make it down safely without help.” I find it hard to believe that you can make an assumption of who is fine or not. And make quick judgments about weather to leave them there without even questioning abandoning the ascent to help them.

    The drunk analogy would only work if everyone on Everest who was in need of help, needed it because their life wasn’t in danger, however that is not so, you have deflated the whole situation by using the analogy.
    A drunk persons actions and not appreciating help could lead them to do something stupid and injure themselves (even so I still think one should help them) which implies it’s essentially self inflicted. Unless you are trying to say that a person in need of help on Everest has brought their demise upon themselves doesn’t need help, then I see no credible point to your analogy.

    Anyway this whole issue wouldn’t arise if there weren’t so many people trying to climb it in the first place.

  48. Mark Horrell said:

    I can only speak for myself, but I was climbing at my very limits on summit day, and focused on getting myself down safely. I wasn’t in a position to check everyone I passed and examine them carefully to see if they needed help. Had I done so, then I wold have risked my own own life, even more than I was already doing. But there were many people on the mountain more experienced than I was, such as guides and Sherpas, and in the overwhelming majority of cases where climbers are struggling they receive the help they need and live to climb another day. Of course, these examples don’t make headlines for the media, so you’re much less likely to read about them.

    While you’re entitled to your opinion, I’d like to point out that this is a personal blog about mountaineering, and is not a forum for hate messages directed at Everest climbers. If you feel the need to post such messages, please return to the articles this blog post is criticising and post them there.

  49. J said:

    Perhaps some consideration should be given to the fact that some climbers on Everest are climbing with poor equipment, limited oxygen, no radio, no support. There are climbers – some of the best in the world – who can handle this. And then there are those that can’t.

    I despair slightly at the vitriol hurled at climbers on Everest who are trying to keep themselves alive and don’t or can’t help someone, when there seems to be substantially less criticism of those who climb with poorly supported groups and who go up the mountain knowing that because of their kit or lack of guide/team/Sherpa support or health issues or inexperience or whatever, there is a greater chance they’ll get in trouble on the mountain.

    But yet they still climb, putting themselves at risk and anyone who tries to help them. There’s a selfishness there which seems to go unspoken in the anger at all the other people on the mountain who haven’t stopped to help them. I’d recommend reading Dark Summit by Nick Heil, which looks specifically at David Sharp and Lincoln Hall, as well as having a look at:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/everest/etc/roundtable.html.

  50. Mark Horrell said:

    Thanks for posting the link J. I’d not seen it before, but it’s a good discussion and one that’s very relevant to this post and well worth reading for all armchair critics.

    You make a very good point about the lack of consideration shown by climbers who are unsupported. There are many of these so-called ‘independent’ climbers on all the commercial 8000m peaks, who are not experienced enough to be doing it on their own but rely on the goodwill of well-supported teams to help if things go wrong. They are no different from inexperienced hikers who head into the hills knowing that volunteer mountain rescue services will come and rescue them if they get lost. As the experts in the discussion you posted point out, these mountain rescue services don’t exist on Everest, and carrying out a rescue is a whole different ball game.

    I actually read Dark Summit when I came back from Everest and wrote a review of it here: http://www.markhorrell.com/blog/2012/5-everest-horror-stories/. It’s a good example. Nick Heil was a journalist who seemed to start from a critical point of view, but changed his mind when he realised how complex the issues were and how much people actually had tried to help David Sharp to no avail.

  51. J said:

    Thanks Mark, I’ll go read your review. The other one you review – High Crimes – is on the Amazon wishlist, so I’ll get around to it soon.

    I’m with on your views on the ethical issue of stopping to help someone. I’ve read your journal on your Everest climb, and your comments about not even being able to stop and talk to someone to try to convince them not to keep going to the summit were very real and gave something of a sense of what it must be like to be up in the death zone, exhausted, and unable to focus on anything except the task ahead (I hope I’ve not misrepresented that). I’m sorry that was something you had the experience of to write about though.

    Patrick, I’d definitely recommend having a look at Dark Summit, it’s a good study on the question of leaving someone / helping someone.

  52. Patrick said:

    I’m sorry if i came off as hurtful, and I’m sure you do have empathy for other climbers, and try to help to the best of your ability in extreme circumstances. Yet I still think yo should prioritize the need to help other climbers at all costs.

  53. Mark Horrell said:

    No problem Patrick, and thank you for apologising. I know where you’re coming from, and I had very similar views myself after reading Into Thin Air many years ago. It was a long time before I realised the ethics were much more complicated in that situation. It doesn’t help when the media publish emotive pieces which don’t try to explain.

    J, thanks and no you haven’t misrepresented – one focus only!

  54. Pingback: Kenton Cool and the Olympic gold medal for climbing Everest – Footsteps on the Mountain

    [...] Some of the posts I’ve written myself include a summary of my own expedition, thoughts on the subsequent media furore, and advice to potential Everest [...]

  55. Chuck said:

    People can rationalize anything if they try hard enough; but leaving someone that’s in obvious distress, who will almost certainly die without assistance, takes rationalization to a whole new level. It’s hard to imagine how people like that sleep at night.

    your analogy of the drunk person is like comparing apples to oranges. One will eventually sober up and go home, the other will die.

    Imagine how you would feel in the same situation.. Knowing that you’re going to die, that you’ll never see your loved ones again, and will probably suffer the indignity of being used as a landmark like “Green Boots” simply because you’re fellow self-absorbed climbers can’t spare the time or effort required to assist you. What a sad and lonely way to leave this World..

  56. Mark Horrell said:

    In most cases it’s not true that a struggling climber you pass on summit day will “almost certainly die without assistance”. Most climbers on Everest are struggling; most get down safely, without assistance. Your primary responsibility as a climber in that extreme environment is to focus on getting yourself down safely.

    In the very few cases where a climber is clearly dying, it is often not possible to carry out a rescue, and to stay and try to help would put further climbers at risk. Often they are beyond help, such as in the David Sharp example above.

    I hesitate to make another analogy, because it seems the drunk analogy has been misinterpreted by some people, who have chosen to focus on the logic of this statement rather than look at the bigger picture, but it is not always wise to run into a burning building to try and rescue someone if the fire is too great and their situation too perilous.

    I realise it’s difficult for most people to comprehend the rationale of climbers in that extreme environment when they have not been there themselves, but please read the comments above before making any further comments, as you are repeating arguments which have already made in the thread. In particular you should read the link J posted above containing a discussion by a panel of experts, which will give you a better understanding of the psychology of risk and the difficulties of carrying out a rescue above 8000m: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/everest/etc/roundtable.html

  57. Chuck said:

    Mark, my apologies if I sounded like a broken record rehashing previously stated arguments. I just like to re-state things in my own words for clarity.

    David Sharp is probably not the best example you could give of someone “beyond help”. Apparently, when the Inglis party came upon him during their ascent, he was still fairly lucid and mobile. Mark Whetu one of the guides, even instructed him to follow the line of LED lights down to Camp IV before leaving. That would be a rather odd thing to tell someone who was seriously incapacitated don’t you think? But nine hours later w/o supplemental oxygen or medical help, he was “beyond help” as you say.

    I just can’t imagine what it’s like for the families of these individuals knowing their loved ones are sitting on a mountainside like theme park attractions, frozen in time. Mr. Sharp’s action were indeed reckless and stupid, but not certainly not serious enough to warrant death.

    Like you say, I’m not a climber, and I haven’t been there or done that. Forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn. The closest experience I have to life or death situations or hazardous environments is being an EMT. I have a duty to act within my abilities if at all possible, so maybe that’s why I feel the way I do..

  58. Mark Horrell said:

    That’s OK, Chuck. I understand where you’re coming from, especially if you’re a paramedic. I imagine there are occasions when the ethics must be pretty clear cut. I wish they had been up there as well.

    I don’t think we can assume too much about what may have happened on David Sharp’s summit day as the brain is focused on survival, and we don’t remember incidents clearly. I do have regrets about my summit day, or what I recall of it. I regret not stopping to persuade a Spanish climber to turn around as I came down from the Third Step. The climber continued to the summit (we think), but died of exhaustion on the way down. It’s possible he would have ignored my advice and continued anyway, but it wouldn’t have hurt for me to stop and talk to him.

    On the other hand I don’t regret overtaking another climber who I passed struggling on the Second Step. He held me up for nearly an hour, was on his own and seemed very nervous. I got back to Camp 3 exhausted, an hour before dark, after an 18 hour summit day. Perhaps I had a duty to stop and help him. With hindsight it seems obvious there was a high chance he may have died up there. Luckily he didn’t, but had I stayed to help him, there’s a high chance I would have died as well. And if I had a duty to stop and help him, then that means my Sherpa Chongba also had a duty to stay and help me. In that case we all may have died up there, leaving Chongba’s five children fatherless.

    Had that climber died on the Second Step, then I would certainly have done some soul searching, but even with hindsight I still believe my duty was to get myself down safely. It may have been heroic to stay there with him and help him down, but I doubt Chongba’s wife and children would have felt the same way about it if we’d all died.

    I expect not everybody will have behaved as I did, but that’s how I rationalise it, and how I’m able to sleep at night. It must have been awful for David Sharp’s parents hearing about all those people walking past him, and terribly hard to understand, but I can understand every one of them and don’t belive they can (or should) be blamed for what happened (and as I understand it David Sharp’s parents don’t blame anyone else for his death).

    Please don’t use phrases like “theme park attractions” to describe bodies on Everest. That’s the emotive language of journalists looking for a story. It’s certainly not how any climbers on Everest see them. You sound like an educated man who has respect for human life; phrases like that are certainly beneath you. :-)

  59. Chuck said:

    I’m sorry if I came across as being judgmental. I’ve never been put in such a situation, so in all honesty, I can’t say how I’d truly react. I like to think I’d show courage and compassion, but self-preservation is a very powerful instinct in all of us.

    You’re right, “theme park attractions” is an overly dramatic description, but after viewing some of the photos, it was the only comparison that came readily to mind. For some reason, even good, well-meaning people seem to be drawn to the macabre whether it’s a fire, a car wreck,a murder scene, or in this instance a series of unfortunate tragedies.

    I do have one question that you can possibly answer. Do they know the identities of the 120+ bodies that are scattered about the mountainside? It really bothers me to think of them as being nameless entities. I’m sure they all have or had someone, be it family or friends, that miss them and could use some closure.

  60. Mark Horrell said:

    No problem, I think we’re both on the same page. :-)

    There are still relatively few deaths on Everest, and it’s usually possible to identify bodies on the route from year to year. I saw six on summit day, and my expedition leader Phil was able to tell me who they all were. On the north side with the exception of Tsewang Paljor (aka “Green Boots”), who has now been there 17 years, they are all quite recent (2 or 3 years), as somebody usually moves them off the route eventually out of respect. Even those discovered many years later are possible to identify. Pete Boardman’s was found on the Northeast Ridge by a Japanese team 13 years after he went missing in 1982. His identity was confirmed when photographs of his remains were sent to Chris Bonington, who was leading the expedition.

    To bring a body down from Everest is a huge logistical operation, and most families cannot afford it. Sometimes bodies are moved from the route simply by dropping them over the edge, and often this is done at the request of their families (Russell Brice’s Sherpas did this on behalf of David Sharp). This might sound callous, but many people believe the mountain is an appropriate place for them to remain. When well-meaning people found Art Gilkey’s body on K2 many years after he died from a fall in 1953 and returned it to the US for burial, his expedition leader Charles Houston was very unhappy and felt he should have remained where he fell.

    It’s likely many bodies which have been “buried” on Everest in this way can no longer be identified, but this doesn’t need to be upsetting if you think of it as the mountain claiming her own, or as their ashes being scattered in the place they loved.

  61. Mark Horrell said:

    And of course, I didn’t mention the obvious one – Mallory was identified 75 years later.

  62. Chuck said:

    It’s good to know they’re not nameless and forgotten. Thank you. I was very pleased to discover the identity of the climber with the skeletonized head (Peter Boardman). For some reason that photo really got to me. Why, I don’t know, it just did. Knowing who he was, somehow makes his death seem less tragic.

    It’s too bad that the cost for body recovery is so prohibitive. I now understand the rationale for leaving them in situ where they fell or succumbed to fatigue or the elements.

  63. Thea said:

    Chuck, you said “I was very pleased to discover the identity of the climber with the skeletonized head (Peter Boardman). For some reason that photo really got to me.”

    AFAIK no photo of Boardman’s body has been made public. There is a photo of a dead climber circulating on the internet that has been wrongly identified as Peter Boardman. It’s not Boardman – the clothing is all wrong for starters.

  64. Chuck said:

    Thea, you’re probably right about the body being incorrectly identified. I’ve read several posts about alleged sightings, and “yes”, most are inconsistent with the known facts. I guess it’s just a bit of wishful thinking on my part.

    Oh well, sometimes a happy thought must suffice.

  65. Thea said:

    Hi Chuck, as Mark said, Pete Boardman’s body was sighted (in 1992 and 1995) and his identity confirmed from his clothing (he had an ISM badge sewn on a red Mountain Equipment down suit). If you’ve not read it already, you might find Maria Coffey’s book, Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow, interesting – she discusses (amongst other things) the impact of finding Pete Boardman’s body.

    As for the photo doing the rounds, I don’t know how it came to be misidentified – I’ve never been able to trace its origin. Personally, I don’t think photos of dead climbers should be made public but unfortunately some people find that sort of thing entertaining and an opportunity to make “jokes”.

  66. Chuck said:

    Hi Thea, and thanks for the reply. I’ll definitely get a copy of the book you cited. I agree with you about the inappropriateness of publishing photographs of the dead. I see it as being in poor taste, and disrespectful not only to the person, but their loved ones. Every time I see one of those pictures, it really depresses me. They were once living, breathing people with hopes, dreams, and people who they loved and that loved them. To be left out in the open like that for all to see is unconscionable in my opinion.

    In all fairness and honesty, I guess we humans all have a morbid side. We find death to be both frightening and fascinating all at the same time. Fatal car accidents are a perfect example. People line up like they’re circus attractions just to get a quick look at the carnage.

    Maybe recovery of the bodies isn’t a realistic option due to the money and logistics involved, but some type of burial, whether it’s in a crevasse or with a stone cairn should certainly be doable.

  67. Thea said:

    Chuck, you’ve hit the nail on the head in identifying the problem with these photos being circulated. I understand the need for photos to ID bodies and provide proof of death for next-of-kin. Beyond that it seems ghoulish, and to make them public shows complete and utter lack of empathy.

    I agree that there’s a bit of morbid curiosity in all of us, but some of the comments I’ve seen while trying to track down that particular photo are really beyond the pale.

  68. Chuck said:

    Thea,

    It’s easy for people to laugh and joke about the misfortunes of others, at least until a similar tragedy befalls them or a loved one. Personal tragedy has a way of putting things into their proper perspective.

    I strongly believe in Karma, and know at some point our actions boomerang on us whether they’re good or bad in nature. It’s always wise to think long and hard about the consequences before you act or speak negatively towards another person.

    When I was a child my older sister would always shout at people who wronged her “God’s going to get you for that!” I thought it was funny at the time, but now I think I know what she meant.

  69. Matt Smith said:

    I also find also such morbid fascination to be rather grim, but I appreciate that not all cultures view death in the same way. When I lived in Thailand, a quick look through any of the daily newspapers would reveal numerous grotesque images of unfortunate individuals who’d met an untimely demise. Asians don’t seem to find something like that shocking, yet most would be highly offended if you walked into their house with your shoes on – I know my wife is! After realizing this was fairly commonplace, I made a concerted effort to avoid such publications in future, which I believe is the best course of action. It’s not really too difficult to avoid googling ‘dead climbers remains’, is it?!

    On a more cheerful note, there is a very nice photo and biog of Pete Boardman, one of Stockport’s most famous sons, on the wall in Wetherspoons. A place he might possibly have frequented if he’d still been around today :-)

  70. Thea said:

    Hi Chuck, yes you’re right about personal experience lending a different perspective to things. I don’t believe in Karma or suchlike. I think, ideally, we should act as if our actions matter *now*, rather than because of possible consequences at some future time or afterlife.

    Hi Matt, I don’t know that this is a cultural thing as many of the photos are on English language websites. It would never have occurred to me to google “dead climbers remains”, however an image search for Pete Boardman brought up the relevant photo. It was while I was trying to track its source and how it came to be misidentified that I came across some, uh, dubious sites and commentary. So it irked me that the commentary on the photo was not only disrespectful but also spreading misinformation.

    Is Wetherspoons a pub in Stockport? (I’m not in the UK)

  71. Matt Smith said:

    Hi Thea, yes I can see how it can be easy to come across such images, as I googled Pete Boardman and indeed, the image you are referring to popped up on the first page. Interestingly it was on a Spanish blog ‘Los muertos del Everest’ (the dead of Everest), not an English one, although I don’t dispute there existence.

    Yes, Wetherpoons is a chain of pubs in the UK selling good, cheap beer and cheap, but not quite-so-good food and there is one in Stockport. The biog and photo of Pete Boardman is appropriately at the top of the stairs, so you pass it on your climb up to the Camp One a.k.a. the toilets :-)

  72. Thea said:

    Hi Matt, yes there is a proliferation on Spanish language websites for some reason, often with the same images and dodgy route map of Everest! I’ve not read the comments on those as it’s too tedious going through the Google translator.

    If I’m ever in Stockport I’ll check out Wetherspoons.

  73. Chuck said:

    Thea, My version of Karma is probably significantly different the mainstream belief. I tend to adapt things to my own understanding of them. LOL I like to think of myself as a basically decent person, but the reality of it is more like, “I treat you as you treat me”. If I’m accorded respect, I do my best to reciprocate. If I see someone in trouble, I typically help, even if I don’t like them personally. I agree, our actions do count in the here and now as well as in the future.

    Matt, I’ve never actually googled “dead climbers remains”, but it seems to get the same results even if you use just the name. Google’s search engine is an odd bird to say the least! I doubt I’ll ever make it to Stockport to read his bio or view his picture, but it definitely sounds pretty neat. I love nostalgic things. I’m stuck in the 80′s for the most part.

  74. Matt said:

    Thea, our Hispanic brethren seem to have a fixation with death, which may explain those ghoulish posts. They have a celebration dedicated exclusively to the dead – El dio del muertas and I once spent a month learning Spanish in the Mexican city of Guanajuato, where they even have a ‘mummy museum’ (El Museo De Las Momias), which was actually quite fascinating…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummies_of_Guanajuato.

    Chuck, if you are nostalgic about mountaineering from the 80s (and not just the music) you might be interested in http://www.mountainbooks.co.uk/ They used to be called Jarvis books and had a little shop in Matlock, where I was brought up, but now they just sell on line. They had an enormous stock of books both new and old, often at very reasonable prices. Needless to say I was a frequent visitor to that establishment in the past!

    Cheers, Matt.

  75. Chuck said:

    Hi Matt,

    I like all things 80′s. I checked the site out that you suggested, and I’ll definitely be placing an order. Some of the books listed are fascinating and I’d love to read them all, but unfortunately I only have so much free time to do so.

  76. Thea said:

    Matt, fixation indeed. ‘Los muertos del Everest’ returns over 14,000 results on Google! It was on a Spanish site that I found the first occurrence (so far) of the photo being misidentified as Boardman.

  77. Jonny said:

    Mark, your comment ‘Even Ueli Steck climbed with a Sherpa this year’ (June 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm) is completely disingenuous.

    Your comment insinuates that that Everest is such a ‘serious proposition’ for any climber, that even the worlds most gifted alpinist, Ueli Steck, required the assistance of ‘a Sherpa’. I believe your comment suggests that Tenzig was there in a the commercial modern-day pack-horse sense of the word ‘Sherpa’. He was actually climbing alongside Ueli as a friend and a team member of equal parity, and he was only ethinically, (and also irrelavently) ‘Sherpa’.

    Please refer to the following interview: http://vimeo.com/41997030 as clarification(2 mins in). In sounds like he would have been perfectly happy to climb Everest on his own.

    You also omitted the fact that the two climbed the peak with out the assistance of bottled oxygen (the benchmark style of accent, against which all others should be measured.)

  78. Mark Horrell said:

    Thank, Jonny. Criticism accepted. You’re quite right, my comment did imply exactly what you are suggesting, and I remember being surprised to hear at the time that Ueli had climbed with a Sherpa (I wasn’t being disingenuous though – I meant what I said). I’m now quite sure he is one of just a handful of mountaineers who would be able to climb Everest solo, and I understand he is going back this year to try a new route. Thanks for providing the video and clarification. :-)

  79. Matt said:

    “…with out the assistance of bottled oxygen (the benchmark style of accent, against which all others should be measured.)”

    On what basis? I would argue that Hilary & Tenzing’s first ascent of Everest (with oxygen) was a much greater achievement than modern ascents without. Going into the unknown with very basic equipment by today’s standard must have been a daunting proposition. Anyone who attempts Everest these days knows what they are letting themselves in for, as there is a huge body of knowledge and experience to draw upon. It’s also worth considering that going to such high altitudes without supplementary oxygen is an extremely risky affair and many have died or been permanently disabled from stroke and cerebral edema.

    Some people have fanciful ideas about mountaineering, in that the experience is some how diminished by the use of technology to make the sport safer. I’m an experienced scuba diver and I’ve never heard another diver complain that we should leave our depth gauges in the boat to make the experience that bit more exciting! Nor would one choose to dive alone, when the minimum safety requirement is to dive with at least one other person, just as it is to climb with another mountaineer.

  80. Mark Horrell said:

    Thanks for pointing this out Matt, and you’re absolutely right. I should point out that I was only conceding Jonny’s point about Ueli Steck climbing without Sherpa support, which was merely correcting a fact I didn’t know at the time (and not insincerity as he alleged).

    Jonny’s last paragraph is of course highly debatable. Leaving aside the fact that for those of us who take part in mountaineering for enjoyment rather than competition the concept of a benchmark is meaningless, it’s impossible to measure ascents today against those of our predecessors. Ueli himself has made no secret of the fact that the equipment he uses for his speed ascents simply wasn’t available for many previous climbers, and that his relationship with Mountain Hardwear has enabled him to use technology to push back the barriers.

    Not only is warm, light down clothing available now which it wasn’t in the past, but knowledge of routes and snow conditions is more advanced. Perhaps the most significant development of all is the quality of weather forecasts now available, which allow people on Everest to climb in the best possible conditions and avoid the storms which dogged early expeditions.

    The hang ups many people have about use of oxygen have been around for years. Use of oxygen was fiercely debated during the 1920s Everest expeditions. Before the 1924 expedition Douglas Freshfield, one of the members of the Everest Committee, remarked:  “One might as well claim merit for going up the Matterhorn without a rope or ice axe, in dress shoes or in shirt sleeves”. He likened attempting Everest without oxygen to Captain Scott going to the South Pole without sled dogs.

  81. Hi Mark, I just wanted to give you the thumbs up for all that you said. We must have crossed paths on summit day. I was on the top at 3.50 in the morning(I was having a good day). You are right in what you say. On the 19th I aborted my first summit bid due to bad weather. At the base of the rocks at 7,800 Mtrs I came across a stricken climber returning from the summit. I single handedly dragged the guy down to 7,000 Mtrs to the camp. At no time did I consider my future summit bid that I would be attempting a few days later. My only concern was to get the guy to safety. I had one shot at Everest and I was happy to give it up for that mans life if I had to.

    All the best maybe our paths will cross again Neil.

  82. Matt Smith said:

    @ Neil – you are a legend!

    More stories about people’s lucky escapes and less about their unfortunate demises would great. Take note The Media :-)

  83. Mark Horrell said:

    Hi Neil,

    Thanks, glad you like the post. Well done to you for helping a man down from Camp 2.

    I’d be interested to hear more about it. 19th was the day we summited. It was good weather that day, very little wind, clear and not too cold. The following morning when we left Camp 3 it was howling a gale and much of the descent to Camp 2 was in whiteout conditions, though several people did reach the summit that day.

    I’m guessing you made your first attempt on 20th, when you found the man in difficulty on his own, and returned to summit during the 24th/25th window?

    Regards,
    Mark.

  84. Yea sorry, my first summit bid was going to be leaving on the 19th at 10pm from camp 3 and getting to the summit around 5.30am on the 20th.
    But we aborted at 7800 Mtrs, that’s where I found the climber. I then ended up summiting on the 25th.
    Tell me something were you guys were at the Russians party? The climber that I helped down was there too. That was where I met him briefly, for about 20 mins I spoke with him. His name was Siad and he came from the UAE. Do you remember him, he was dark skinned and his beard was very cleanly groomed for Everest. It’s just that I haven’t been able to get in touch with him and wondered if anyone else knew of him?
    Neil.

  85. Mark Horrell said:

    Oh, OK, slightly confused. 7800m is the top of Camp 2. Didn’t you start your summit attempt from Camp 3 at 8200m, or did you meet him on your way back to Camp 1?

    Congratulations on your summit anyway. Sorry, I was at the Russian party but I didn’t speak to anyone from UAE. The beards I saw mostly belonged to Russians and would be very generously described as “cleanly groomed”. ;-)

  86. Yes the Russians kind of stood out!
    We never got as far as camp three on the 19th.
    I joined the Swiss expedition ( Kobler & Partner ) they do it a little different.
    My summit bid consisted of ABC to north col where we spent the night. Then climbed to camp two (7800 Mtrs ) and spent the night. Then on to camp three, we didn’t spend the night there, we waited until 10pm and climbed through the night and I was on the top at 3.50 am on the 25th.
    I was sure that Siad said at the party that he was with the Russian expedition (7 summits), but he’s nowhere to be seen on any of the Russians websites of the 2012 expedition. I just thought I would ask.

  87. Mark Horrell said:

    Wow, that’s quite a performance. I was a bit slower on my own summit day – a full 10 hours to the summit!

    We gave one of your team, Rainer, a lift back to Zhangmu. It sounds like you’re well looked after with Kobler. Glad to hear an English speaker had such a successful trip with them.

    Sorry I don’t have any information about Siad. 7 Summits are a respectable operator with plenty of support. It would be unusual for one of their team to be struggling down from Camp 2 with nobody to help, though I guess if he didn’t use his radio they may have been unaware.

  88. I’m still in touch with Rainer, he didn’t fair too well at the latter stages of the expedition, its such a shame that he didn’t make it. But he made the right choice to turn around.
    I may well have picked up what Siad said wrongly at the party, I met Alex from 7 summits a few times and I know that they play a fair game on the mountain.
    I’m from Aberdeen Scotland, so I’m pretty resilient to the cold and the Cairngorms are my back yard so Me and my climbing partner had plenty of lonely nights in a tent at the top of the mountains preparing ourselves.

  89. jen kennedy said:

    The analogy of the drunk man is poor, if he looked to be in need of medical attention or looked like he may endanger his or others lives by falling into the rd. You would call the police or ambulance. If he had tripped & fallen & looked like he was dying, you would stop & tend to him after calling for help. No one wants to die alone. To pass anyone in need let alone a dying person is not justified under any bloody circumstance. By the way I don’t think people who climb Everest are jerks, I totally get it. But, when they pass an injured or dying person then they are jerks. As for the poor wife waiting for you to get home safely(drunk man anology) tell her you stopped to help a drunk man & if she says ‘oh I was so worried about you sweatheart & fails to ask about the drunk man’, then she is a jerk as well.

  90. Mark Horrell said:

    No, Jen, I don’t think you do “totally get it”, and you have no idea what it’s like to be up there in a life and death struggle in an extreme environment.

    Furthermore it appears you haven’t bothered to read the rest of the discussion before posting, or you would know that the issue of the tramp analogy has been addressed before and is now becoming tiresome. You would also have a better idea of how difficult it is to carry out a rescue at 8500m, and will have read my candid explanation of why I took the decisions I did on summit day. Please read these before posting again.

    This is not the Daily Mail, and is not a place to be posting abusive comments. Your tone and language are inappropriate for this blog, and if you cannot be civil then your comments will be deleted and this discussion closed.

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