The End of the Everest Myth

Posted on: April 28, 2014


[Photo] Mark Rosen/Wikimedia Commons

We all know the Myth. We've heard it told and retold hundreds of times, in "motivational" speeches exhorting audiences to "climb your personal Everest," in press releases announcing the latest person to summit for the latest reason, in corporate metaphors hailing the qualities required to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way of "success" on the world's highest peak.

As climbers and as readers of mountain literature, we're also familiar with attempts to communicate the realities behind the Everest Myth. We've seen decades of accounts about the crowds of clients on the normal routes and about the extensive reliance on the ropes fixed, the camps placed, the oxygen bottles carried and the loads hauled by local workers. Some of us have argued in print and online that this form of "totally supported" ascent is not "climbing," that genuine mountaineering involves more direct contact with the features of the mountain, and that the "spirit of alpinism" is about respect for the natural world, not its dominion. In 2008 the French alpinist Patrick Wagnon summed up this view in an impassioned editorial for Montagnes Magazine:

"I'm not seeking, here, to advocate an elitist discourse...but rather a return to humility, in which it's up to the climber to adapt himself to choosing an objective within his abilities, and not to the mountain to be rendered more accessible."

Over the years, like the editors of so many other publications around the world, and like numerous members of the climbing community, Alpinist contributors have periodically spoken out against the current problems with high-altitude tourism on Everest. And each season, as the death toll rises, the Myth only seems to grow more powerful. The climbing writer Peter Beal argues on his blog, "There is no question that Everest is a spectacle now, feeding on its own image, becoming a bigger version of itself."

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Then on April 18 of this year, sixteen Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung and Nepali high-altitude staff died in a single ice avalanche in Everest's Khumbu Icefall. All references to individual summit dreams take on a hollow sound before the images of children's faces contorted in grief; before the knowledge that their parents died trying to earn the money to support them and to send them to school.

Before yet another Everest season arrives next year, I believe the consequences of the Myth must be examined again, this time with an even stronger emphasis on the dangers for those whose labor helps sustain it. To look behind the layers of this mythology is not merely a matter of pointing out differences in mountaineering styles or of arguing about philosophies and motivations. In inspirational books and speeches, many clients have obscured the immense infrastructure of labor that makes their exploits possible. And to the degree that Sherpas and other local guides have become invisible in such stories, their concerns, their risks and the value of their lives have become invisible as well.

When Sherpas appear in Western narratives, their role is far too often described in terms redolent with imperial nostalgia. In a recent blog post (republished on Alpinist.com), Jemima Diki Sherpa evokes the "six-odd decades of mountaineering mythbuilding" that have led some Westerners to imagine themselves "as conquering heroes, assisted by a legion of Sherpa faithful ready—and cheerful—to lay down sweat and lives for arduous, but ultimately noble and glorious, personal successes." On the One Mountain Thousand Summits Facebook page, the climbing writer Freddie Wilkinson alludes to "a fog of Orientalism" that has lingered over representations of Sherpas in the media, a gauzy set of projected fantasies about the exotic and the Other.

Meher H. Mehta, an elder member of the Himalayan Club recalled in a 2012 email to Alpinist: "The division of 'them and us' was very much an attitude of the colonials [during the early twentieth century].... There was always the case of demarcation of the common and preferred. It was in that context that the Sherpa found entry into the mountaineering hierarchy." Even today, depictions of Sherpas as almost-mythical, self-sacrificing beings present them, implicitly or explicitly, as subservient to the desires and expectations of Western visitors. The suffering, fears and hopes of individual Sherpas can be easily ignored in paeans to "the Sherpa people" that extol their "geographic destiny"—as if all Sherpas were preordained to spend their lives hauling heavy equipment for foreigners, cheerfully and faithfully, amid the ever-present dangers of avalanches, icefall and thin air. Such writing praises them, essentially, for 'knowing their place.'

In Buried in the Sky (2012), Amanda Padoan and Peter Zuckerman described the widespread appropriation of the Sherpa culture and name: "The word [Sherpa] is often applied commercially to anything that helps people get around. Haul your terrier in the Sherpa Dog Carrier. Brace your belly with a Baby Sherpa Maternity Belt. Stow your bibs and burp cloths in the award-winning Alpha Sherpa diaper bag. 'It's no mystery how this pack got its name,' reads the promotional website for the Evo-Sport Sherpa Rucksack. 'The Sherpa is built to carry all your gear, and you won't feel a thing.'" The blog Reclaiming Sherpa keeps a list of companies that use "Sherpa" as a brand, and that thus help conflate an ethnicity and a group of human beings with "goods and services." Beneath the surface of some international Everest accounts, there's a similar kind of dehumanization, an assumption that suffering can be passed on to hired "personal Sherpas," who are somehow "built" to bear and endure.

A certain romanticism lies at the heart of many Western mountaineering traditions, one that has taken multiple and shifting forms: the image of the heroic individual who tests himself against the elements or who seeks to lose himself in union with nature; the valuing of transcendent moments that seem to exist outside of civilization and time. That same tendency, however, can spill over into less seemly habits of thought. As the anthropologist Sherry Ortner explains, the echoes of an older, essentializing language resound in some modern Everest tales, portraying Sherpas as if they were an inextricable part of a romanticized natural landscape, as "happy," "unmodern" and "innocent." During the early days of Himalayan mountaineering, this kind of rhetoric promoted the attractions of hiring Sherpas. But it also frequently denied them the right to make their own decisions about personal safety, depicting the Sherpas as "childlike" and insisting that Western expedition leaders 'knew best'—even when they ordered Sherpas to carry loads in dangerous snow conditions (Life and Death on Mt. Everest, 1999).

Filled with ghostly remnants of this language, the Everest Myth veils the complexities of mountain workers' lives, the scarcity of better employment that drives most local expedition staff to such hazardous jobs; the increased professional qualifications and experience of some modern Sherpa guides; the dreams of many to escape mountaineering into careers that offer less physical risk, more autonomy and more choices; the stories of Sherpas who have, in fact, succeeded in non-climbing careers in Nepal and in other parts of world; the varied cultures among the members of different ethnic groups who perform the same labor as Sherpa high-altitude staff and who are often referred to by the same name; the growing frustration of many expedition workers with the inequities of the current system; the political tensions within the country after years of struggles between Maoists and the government; the broader economic struggles that have pushed many Nepalis to seek other dangerous jobs abroad, including the hundreds of migrant workers who have died in the past few years on construction sites in Qatar.

In a 2013 article, "The Disposable Man," Outside Senior Editor Grayson Schaffer wrote about Everest in much-needed, de-mythologized terms: "A Sherpa working above Base Camp on Everest is nearly 10 times more likely to die than a commercial fisherman—the profession the Center for Disease Control and Prevention rates as the most dangerous nonmilitary job in the US—and more then three and a half times as likely to perish than an infantryman during the first four years of the Iraq war. As a dice roll for someone paying to reach the summit, the dangers of climbing can perhaps be rationalized. But as a workplace safety statistic, 1.2 percent mortality is outrageous. There's no other service industry in the world that so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefits of paying clients."

In a Guardian report this year, the British journalist Ed Douglas portrayed Everest's labor conditions with a similar industrial language: "As factory floors go, it's hard to imagine anywhere more dangerous. And that is what the [Khumbu] Icefall is: a place of work for the Sherpas and other high-altitude workers. It is hard to imagine anything in nature more capricious or beyond human control, yet Sherpas ferrying supplies to the upper slopes must pass through this labyrinth up to 30 times during the season. They are playing Russian roulette for a living." To look at Everest high-altitude tourism, thus, for what it has become—a multimillion-dollar business—allows for a more serious investigation of labor relations, working conditions and inequality. It encourages a demand for better life insurance for local expedition workers. It raises questions about differences in pay between some indigenous and Western guides who have similar levels of experience.

There are other shifts in talking about Everest that may remove additional layers of the Myth. During the 1963 American Everest Expedition, the writer James Ramsey Ullman described Sherpa staff carrying loads from Advance Base Camp: "The real job, during this phase of the climb, was being done by the Sherpas up on the Lhotse Face, and there was a glumly recurrent, though scarcely realistic, vision of their going on all the way to the top of the mountain while the sahibs cooled heels and behinds in the Western Cwm. THIRTEEN SHERPAS REACH SUMMIT OF EVEREST; AMERICANS GREET THEM ON DESCENT WITH CHEERS AND HOT TEA would be a fine message to send out to Kathmandu and the world" (Americans on Everest, 1964).

Now, when similar announcements would be accurate (albeit, perhaps, without the offer of American-brewed hot tea), we rarely see such headlines amid the media sources that report on commercial ascents. What if instead of announcing that a client "climbed Everest," those newspapers and websites, instead, named the particular groups of local guides who prepared the route to the summit and then assisted their clients to the top? What if the term "Everest climber" were given to the people who climbed the features of the mountain directly, rather than awarded to those who ascended its pre-fixed ropes? More honest accounts might result in a clearer vision of what takes place on Everest—the beginnings, perhaps, of real discussions about effective and lasting solutions.

There has been an inherent violence to the Everest Myth: violence to the natural environment in the waste that pollutes this over-crowded mountain; to individual identities in the stereotypes that persist; to truth, and most of all, to human lives. At the same time, the Myth can give the general public the false impression that the current methods of commercial expeditions are the only way, erasing the diverse history of mountaineering styles that preceded them. When last year's Everest fight stopped Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith's attempt, few people seemed to remember that others had previously climbed Everest without using fixed ropes on the Lhotse Face—or that Reinhold Messner, Erhard Loretan and Jean Troillet had proven, decades ago, that ascents could be made without high-altitude support staff.

Many have argued that Everest tourism is necessary for local economies. A few guiding companies have striven admirably to give back to communities, with a variety of programs. But after the disasters of the past few seasons, it's time to ask: If this industry must continue in the future, can it be reorganized into new forms that might result in less suffering, discord and grief? In the aftermath of this year's Khumbu Icefall accident, Sherpas guides and other local expedition workers are already taking action. They have demanded that the Nepali government pay more support to the families of the dead, cover medical treatment for the injured and increase the amount of life and rescue insurance for future seasons. They have asked for 30 percent of peak fees to go toward establishing a "mountain relief fund." And they have argued for the authority of local guides to cancel a climbing season, without a financial penalty—the right to make their own decisions, at last, about when the mountain's conditions are placing them in unacceptable risk.

More and more local guides are now speaking and writing about their experiences, taking control of their own representations in the international media. New stories, told by Sherpas from a wide variety of careers and backgrounds will increasingly tear rifts in the once-dominant narrative of the Myth. In the Nepali Times, Tashi Sherpa, a gear company owner, declares: "We cannot predict nature's tantrums and in that we have common ground, for we do not blame anybody for the shifting of the mountain or the movement of rocks; that is the risk inherent in venture. What we cannot accept is the furtive manipulation and complicit acceptance [by others] to make more for ourselves and pay less to those that risk their lives on our behalf."

The old paradigm of foreign visitors dictating the plots of Everest climbing narratives is ending. Instead of merely purchasing a fading illusion of heroism, could more clients (as some already do) contribute more directly to the welfare of local communities? Could the choice of guided peaks be better matched to the abilities of clients, allowing a lighter style and more natural experience for the whole team—and less exposure to objective hazards for the workers? Perhaps, Freddie Wilkinson suggests, if commercial teams could shift their focus toward other, more appropriate destinations in the Himalaya, "such a change would still bring employment and opportunity to the Sherpa community; it would avoid the ludicrous notion of using helicopters to ferry people and equipment above the [Khumbu] icefall; it would potentially spread the economic prosperity that expeditions offer to more valleys and regions of Nepal while also diluting the human impact; it would create a more respectful, and ultimately sustainable model for commercial climbing in the Himalaya. The reason, of course, why nobody has seriously talked about doing this is that the Myth is too strong. People...will always be drawn to the superlative, and there are few goals more easily defined, than reaching the highest point on planet Earth."

But it's important to remember that the well being of local workers is not just an issue for the Everest guiding industry. Most independent alpine-style climbers rely on low-altitude porters to carry loads to base camps, employees who remain even more invisible in international narratives than Sherpa high-altitude staff (See Campbell MacDiarmid's article in Alpinist 42). Nick Mason asked in the 2008 Alpine Journal: "Is it radical to suggest that instead of an equipment or clothing company sponsoring yet another climber they sponsor the construction of porter shelters where they are so desperately needed in Nepal?"

By helping to overturn the false romanticism associated with the Everest Myth, we might all find unexpected ways to break seemingly ironclad conventions, to promote greater levels of both creativity and responsibility for Himalayan climbing. For the Myth, of course, can also trap some "Westerners" within its stereotypes, reinforcing the outdated imperial notions of "us and them"; blurring cultural, national and personal diversity among foreign clients and guides; reiterating patterns of expected roles that they, too, may find limiting and disturbing. In its emphasis on success and personal fulfillment, the Myth can eclipse more important values associated with alpinism, such as solidarity, self-reliance, humility and respect for mountain environments. A return to the "spirit of alpinism" on Everest might encourage something far more meaningful than any summit: a "brotherhood of the rope" that acknowledges not only the connections between climbers, but also the human bonds between every person who dwells and travels beneath Chomolungma—the original name for this still sacred peak.

[With additional reporting by Gwen Cameron.—Ed.]

Sources: Freddie Wilkinson, Janice Sacherer, Meher H. Mehta, Gwen Cameron, Americans on Everest, Buried in the Sky, Life and Death on Mt. Everest, Tigers of the Snow, Montagnes Magazine, Outside, The Alpine Journal, mountainsandwater.com, alpinist.com, whathasgood.com, reclaimingsherpa.wordpress.com, outsideonline.com, theguardian.com, thehimalayantimes.com

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.


Comments
itisalways

Good to read the term "myth" on Everest climbing since the term hints me your intention to remind us the fact that we all may have been so far in any mythic conception on Everest and Sherpa. And, I am happy to be able to read the first comment (written by Rivet).

As myself being an Asian—not communist nor Nepali—I wish to add a few more points to this talk. I believe, first of all, from at least a few years ago, the majority of the foreign mountaineers on Everest or other eight-thousanders in Nepal is not western. They may include Chinese, Japanese, Chilean, Korean, Indian, of course Nepali as being client, Saudi Arabian, or whatever. Personally I am very serious and sincere in hoping to hear a term to designate any group of foreign mountaineers in Nepal being not the Western, as the Nepalese government does. The "western" mountaineers on the mountain and within the "western" mountaineering community seem to me simply ignore different peoples and different views. Although any mountaineer would agree Messner's 1980 solo achievement should be among the best things done on the peak, "alpine-style" is not necessarily to be the final goal. The reviewer from a Communist world might understand what I want to say. I agree it is much better style and I have really enjoyed my own climbings when I applied that style in Himalayas, but I also have loved my climbings in "siege" tactics. Also, I imagine many other "clients" on the mountain would love their being-guided climbing. I mean, I think that many of them do not want to exaggerate their own guided climbing, but simply want to see as it is, with a feeling to be a hero if successful to get to the top. They make their own rule and play their own game, as Tejada-Flores argued early in the 1960s as for the basic principle of all climbing. If successful they feel happy, and naturally want to share their happiness with others. This is I believe the reason why they want to pay a lot of money. They are not stupid, although "novice". I do not understand why you feel this thing uneasy, and want to help you out from, if you are still in, the myth of thinking the highest mountain should be left sacred and untouched by such novice. When I read this article, I am just feeling like to read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, where the author criticized the novice climbers, while other books published by the criticized novice climbers express their own reason and determination which also were perfectly understandable with regard to a mountaineer's ideal if any.

I would name "American ideal" for the uneasiness on the romanticism as Sherry Orner described in her book, in a bit different sense from what Rivet seems to pick up from your article. I hope you not believe that you can really help other people for example Sherpa. When you assume this position, you want to be a real saviour and paradoxically make the people—here sherpa—childish people as she criticized. (however, unfortunately, by doing her criticism, Orner also looks like to be a genuine saviour for Sherpa, and thereby make again the people childish.) "You poor people do not know how hazardous the westerners are, but I know!"

You give examples of "complexities of mountain workers' lives". However, if you had been able to consider more details of them, you were able to have a sense of the extent to which this article may be read absurd. There will be too many things, and should be too many things to understand the circumstances of Sherpa, and thereby one reader might assume a position to argue anything on their lives. This is NOT an issue you can say that "mountaineering in the Sherpa perspective was understood by me given the complex data like the death rate, their normal payment, local-sacredness of the mountain, probable job options, the economic complexity in Nepal and so on". Much more complex than these factors. Death rate? Then what would do death mean to them? What does it mean to be a mountaineering guide? What does it mean to "respect"?

One of my friend Sherpa, whose name is again Tashi, the usual basecamp organizer of the biggest group among the teams at EBC these years, criticized American clients compared to other nationals, saying "Americans always want to be leader; they don't want to follow the leader, while other nationals (including other westerners) do." I do not want to say Americans are bad or something. I just want to blame an American's or whoever's attitude of neglecting other's will and opinion. Here is a good example. See the "Sherpa funds". I think it is very absurd, going completely opposite direction. If you have a bit of knowledge on whys and hows on 3800 INGOs in Nepal currently, and how ICIMOD people has been doing so far for example, you may be hinted the absurdity of 425000 USD people gathered. Again, the "westerners" humiliate their will and opinion. "You say you need money, so I will give you!" Value of money is completely different thing from value of respect. If you want to build a school at Namche now, a number you've never imagined of people will be anxious about the romantic idea. Nepal is not a world of Sherpa; Sherpa's closest friend is not you mountaineers; Everest is a geography in their country, not what an object in your laptop background. Please stop the romanticism.

I should suggest you one of the romanticisms among the Nepali, if you want to talk about Everest with a perspective of the local: www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2014/04/29/editorial/race-to-the-top/262246.html

2014-05-14 02:19:49
rivet

Iím going to write this in the interest of fairness. What you are about to hear is an unpopular view and I expect a few of you to really be put off by it. That would be great! I hope it offers another perspective:

Westerners have always been too apologetic about their exploits- I call it western guilt. It comes with having the most economic and cultural power in the world. I believe the guilt is a good quality to have, it speaks to the fact that western civilization values self evaluation. Your preferred style of thinking is systematic, rational, it's based on logic and rigorous moral frameworks. It is perhaps your greatest strength, but it can also be a weakness. If you have ever watched Apocalypse now youíll know what iím on about. I believe there is a misconception that westerners have about themselves that they are cold-hearted bastards and exploiters. Truth is, you guys are softies! I have known about some real exploiters. What I have seen, based on the culture I come from, my travels, is that the west actually cares more about the welfare of other peoples than anyone else. I think it is a healthy thing for you guys to acknowledge this every now and then instead of being downers on yourselves all the time- maybe this will help take care of your guilt problems. But what can I say? itís your eternal affliction! I know you guys cringe when an older Punjabi or Nepalese tells you that the best times were during British rule in India. You would probably write this off as an isolated view but based on my experiences it is more widespread than you think. You feel the brunt of responsibility it takes to dominate and control. Domination takes a lot of decision making and moral struggling. In many ways itís easier psychologically to be submissive. Thing is, every empire, every region of influence, puts people under the wheel- that's how it has always been and how it always will be. You guys can go on and on about the dirt cheap labor the British used to construct the Darjeeling railroad that connected the world to the Himalaya. Many died and these are things that indeed must be remembered, they should be shocking if you hold to your ideals of humanity. But in your self effacement, you also forget about how much more brutal the rest of the world is in your absence. The rest of the world aint one big happy place without your involvement. So- Everest. Everest, Everest, Everest. For a Sherpa, getting the job of a high altitude porter is like hitting the financial jackpot. There are only so many expeditions and so many available positions. Itís a job which takes some training and a lot of experience. Now the average annual salary in Nepal is 2400 US dollars and this presumably comes from data skewed toward urban areas. An average yak driver would be happy to make 1000 $ annually. This is the type of job that a high altitude worker has as an alternative- most of them come from the high valleys. An altitude worker can make 4000-5000 $ for two months on Everest. The difference is staggering- their quality of life compared to their compatriots is very high. There are also few options for other high pay work in a country such as this. A high altitude worker can support an entire family. This market value comes from the risk. Sure, many western climbers have the technical experience, and even lungs, for icefall work, but they aren't going to hang their ass out for this, it simply doesn't make sense economically. What happens if you take away high altitude work and the Himalayan industry? There will be vast consequences. Everything has consequences. It is a multi-million, possibly billion, dollar industry. It is Nepalís number one export. Itís crucial for the Nepalese economy, it supports millions of people. It has the potential to be a segway from an underdeveloped economy to something else. What else does Nepal have to offer? Very little. Where do you think the schools, the health care, utilities, come from? In 1951 at the dawn of the Himalayan age Nepal had a completely agrarian economy. No hospitals, roads, schools nor electricity. People donít want to talk about how this industry has brought wealth to Nepal, not to mention all the western humanitarian efforts. As always, the west is modest. As with any market, there is room for the workers to push for higher wages based on a moral argument. Itís happening right now, and there is limit to it. The value of a worker comes from their environment. Comparing what a worker in America makes for taking on the equivalent amount of risk is comparing apples and oranges. But you know what? It makes the west value the porterís and fixerís work more and it gets the west to pay more. I donít buy the common point of view that high altitude porters are poor servants of expeditions. I believe these workers know exactly what they are getting into and the risks involved. These are professionals, they are not stupid. Here is a common phrase that people say ďwithout the high altitude Sherpa, nothing will be possible,Ē Sure this sounds great and very appreciative, as the west should be, but it can be said with the same conviction that without western money and dreams nothing is possible either. No one would be climbing the high peaks. Is it a sign that the west has Ďtoo muchí money? perhaps...but so does the fact that Americans landed on the moon. Western civilization has created enough wealth for itself to pursue goals that aren't about survival. The Sherpa are physiologically adapted to altitude, western climbers are not. It is impressive that the Sherpa people have survived and thrived in their inhospitable homeland and evolved their traits. It is also equally impressive that western climbers who have no physiological advantage try to go up there, even the oxygen breathing, fixed line using Ďheathensí! It is still a difficult accomplishment. Steck was incredibly humble when he was interviewed about his clash on Everest. Thatís just the kind of guy he is, not to mention he comes from the incredibly modest swiss culture. I think that inside though, heís had some reevaluating to do about the ideals he held. I would have. Denis Urubko, who was there also, was, as always, totally straight and in his unpopular view I felt truth. Why would he say it if he didn't believe it was true? Urubko believes that some high altitude workers have gotten a bit too much pride in their heads. Now this totally conflicts with the conceptions held in the west about the Sherpa as passive, dependent workers. I leave you with this: Many people constantly hate on the west and I, coming from the world of communism, well maybe I'll be the one to defend it.

2014-05-02 15:49:29
apb1

"Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." —Chinua Achebe

2014-04-29 09:55:11
brihuang

I have posted this long response elsewhere and I want to post it here, because I believe there is a long-term, ethical solution to the whole Everest conundrum, as described:

I believe the very fundamental problem (which is obvious but overlooked) is that Westerners are paying Sherpas tons of money for work they themselves donít want to risk doing. Fixing the Icefall, fixing rope to the summit, finding a crevasse-free route through the Western Comb, etc. all contains life-threatening risks even with the proper training. But, somebody has to do it and, if I owned an expedition firm, I would definitely rather pay a Sherpa 1/10 of the per client revenue (70,000/10=top Sherpa pay) to do all this work than do it myself. I wouldn't pay Western mountaineers for hire, since they cost more and also come with more collateral (imagine if my Western guide fell into a crevasse while establishing route through the Western Comb. THAT would be bad press for my business and I might get sued by the family). From the Sherpa perspective, they are without question lured by this amazing sum. They independently accept the risk on their own choice, but itís only because the job is so lucrative and easy to obtain and they want to provide for their family. If you think about this arrangement, itís actually all very unethical. That is why there are labor laws. But labor laws here won't help because the risks simply cannot be mitigated to an acceptable level — it's mountaineering! Even if life insurance is increased to $50000 or even $100000, does that now make it ethical?

What is the solution? I think the only real ethical solution, though seemingly extreme, is sharing the risk. The only way to toss away the unfair economic leverage Westerners have over Sherpas is to share the risks climbing the mountain. What do I mean by shared risk? Again, although seemingly extreme, it means there has to be an equal number of Sherpa and foreigners doing the dangerous work (i.e. fixing ropes, finding route, ferrying loads). There are tons of qualified mountaineers in America, Europe, Korea etc. that can be hired. Costs would be astronomically increased, but that is the price tourist mountaineers (i.e. those who canít find route or fix rope themselves) must pay to climb something beyond their skill level. If youíre a decent mountaineer, but still require a local guide, you can hire a Sherpa and fix rope TOGETHER as a team. Better yet, work for the expedition companies that are now hiring Western mountaineers to fix rope. If you're a purist, do it unsupported, accolades to you. Finally, knowing Asian culture, sharing this risk would without doubt allow Sherpas to fully embrace Westerners as true family. This would eliminate ethnic, political, ethical tensions between Westerners and Sherpas, creating a harmonious brotherhood spirit at Everest, which embodies true mountaineering.

Of the time pondering this, I really canít think of alternative solutions. Ferrying loads to the Western Comb by helicopter aligns with this philosophy, as the goal is to have Sherpas cross the Icefall only one or two times, the EQUAL amount as what Westerners are doing now. However, what if a nasty storm (or other calamity) hits and 10 Sherpas on the rope fixing team dies? Itíll be same thing as this current incident. Sherpas would again erupt in anger. The unfairness and economic disparity between Sherpas and Westerners would again be in the highlight of the media. Have an equal number of Westerners and Sherpas share the dangerous work (like true mountaineers), restore harmony in the mountains, and finally put an end to this ever increasing commercialization of Everest!

2014-04-28 23:48:16
dthoenen

Excellent! Between Katie Ives and Freddie Wilkinson we've been privy to some terrific reporting and analysis. My thanks to both.

2014-04-28 21:23:27
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