For some reason, I’ve recently taken an interest in Mt. Everest. What could be more amazing than standing on the highest point in the world? With over 400 summits and “only” 11 deaths in 2006 , I have read some stories in magazines and on the Internet, about how the average person now has a chance to reach the summit. Some go as far as calling Everest a “tourist trap” They often say it is now too easy and too crowded on the mountain and that the challenge has been taken away. I call BS and say it is as dangerous as ever with more people dying in 2005 as any time in the last 10 years and a major disaster is just around the corner. Last year you had a one chance in 40 of dying, but overall it is still 1 in 20. Here are some photos and explanations why it is as dangerous as ever.
You don’t get many bad steps on Everest. Now combine these with fatigue, low visibility, and inexperience and you have death. In the second photo, this formation later collapsed killing two men in the process.
Avalanches and blinding snowstorms still happen and are the leading causes of death. 2-1 over falls. There are just more climbers to kill now.
In January, the coldest month, the summit temperature averages about -36Ã‚Â° C (about -33Ã‚Â° F) and can drop as low as -60Ã‚Â° C (-76Ã‚Â° F). In July, the warmest month, the average summit temperature is -19Ã‚Â° C (-2Ã‚Â° F). At no time of the year does the temperature on the summit rise above freezing. Frostbit isn’t a killer but it sure gives you something to remember your trip by.
Yes, it’s getting crowded. It’s these unexperienced people that won’t know how to handle a situation should it become dangerous. This is also a once in a lifetime chance for many and they will will attempt the summit no matter what the conditions. Experienced climbers go on to the top only once out of every 3 chances .
Everest can cause coughs so rough that that your ribs splinter like balsa wood. It is nicknamed the “Khumbu cough”. Also, because of it’s altitude, the snow and ice become so bright that if you don’t have eye protection it will certainly cause snowblindness. Imagine trying to face all the above while being completely blind. If you do have trouble, it doesn’t get any better, see below.
If you get “in a bad way” on a summit attempt there isn’t much chance of getting help. It takes every bit of energy and strength to make it up and down. Trying to take another person with you is almost impossible. Even if they could, anyone outside of your team probably won’t help you because of this. There have more than a few instances of this, where they leave you to die. Don’t believe the old “we’ll come back for you” lines.
I’m sure you realize that the air is a bit thin up there. Yes some people attempt a summit without oxygen but those are the truly experienced or the truly crazy. The rest of us will need it almost all the time just to have a chance. What if you run out or the line freezes up? How about the new climbers that take their empty canisters and set them precariously on the side of the mountain only to become missiles to the climbers below? In England if your blood oxygen level drops below 90%, the doctor can legally make decisions for you. On Everest, the highest level recorded is 82%.