Is the Personal Glory of Climbing Mount Everest Worth Possible Death or Destruction?

Is the Personal Glory of Climbing Mount Everest Worth Possible Death or Destruction?

Josh Stidham, Reporter

The personal glory of climbing Mt. Everest is not worth possible death or destruction. In addition to natural disasters, Everest climbers face a number of life-threatening health risks. In high-altitude settings, there is less oxygen in the atmosphere, and oxygen doesn’t diffuse into a climber’s blood as well as it would at sea level. That can lead to serious medical problems.

On April 18, 2014, an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas on Mount Everest, making it the deadliest day in the mountain’s history. Let’s get to the heart of it: Shriya Shah-Klorfine’s dream of climbing Mount Everest was not worth dying for. Even in an age in which self-fulfillment reigns supreme, you could call personal quests that involve fatal danger and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars vainglorious.

This is not a condemnation of Ms. Shah-Klorfine, the gutsy 33-year-old Canadian woman who, after two years of intensive training but little actual climbing experience, reached the top of Everest last weekend, only to die a horrible death during her difficult descent, gasping for oxygen and crying, “Save me!” She was one of four climbers to die that day, partly because overcrowding on the mountain slowed her climb and left her debilitated, and partly because she apparently disregarded the advice of sherpas to turn back. “I want to reach the top,” she reportedly vowed. 

Everest’s popularity continues to surge. In a typical year now, more than 600 people reach the summit of Everest, which is about half of the number who attempt it (or, at least, pay for permits). About two-thirds of those who summit do it from the south side, in Nepal, while the rest approach from Tibet, on the north. Almost all do it during Everest’s short climbing season, usually a few weeks in May, between the winter and the region’s summer monsoons. 

The range is wide — from nearly $30,000 to $100,000 or more. Foreigners must buy an $11,000 permit from the Nepalese government, plus pay other fees, but the variance has to do with the outfitters hired. Some offer Western guides for Western clients, which can be more expensive than local ones, or some hybrid in the ratio between climbers and guides. (For example, 1 local guide per climber, plus one Western guide for every four climbers.) Other substantial costs include travel, gear, oxygen, and weeks of food and camping while acclimatizing at Base Camp (17,600 feet). In conclusion, a person risks more trying to attempt to climb Mount Everest than it is worth.