Death on Everest and Reactions to it

5:04 p.m. on May 25, 2016 (EDT)
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I preface these comments by saying I have never tried to climb Everest and never will.  I have (and continue to) climb in places where the weather and the conditions can kill you. 

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/25/world/everest-deaths-climb-maria-strydom/index.html in this article on CNN.com, the mother of one of the climbers who died last week expressed concerns about how her daughter acclimatized, how much time she spent about 26,000 feet (the so-called death zone), and the lack of real-time information she received about her daughter's welfare.  

Death in the mountains is tragic.  In my view, it is a known risk, particularly in places where climbers are known to have died in the past.  There has been a lot written about those risks in the Himalaya, including Everest - high altitude, cold, bad weather, avalanche, overcrowding that leads to delays.  Into Thin Air brought home the impact that a bottleneck can have along the most popular route to the top, leaving climbers waiting for longer than they anticipated.  

Are people with limited experience in that situation are equipped to make critical decisions, especially when their brains are running on limited oxygen? Can they tell the difference between the normal pain and fatigue and high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema, for example?  When should climbers who have expended their reserves turn back? this is a particularly thorny issue when clients have paid a lot of money and have a lot of motivation to get to the top.  

  

5:18 p.m. on May 25, 2016 (EDT)
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That last sentence highlights the real issue here.  Sure, "professional" climbers die, too.  But it is an inherent conflict of interest for these guiding companies to offer to take people up Everest and then put them in the situation of decided who makes it to the top. 

Professional climbers have a climb leader who makes that decision and only picks the strongest candidates.  The companies that offer to take you up to the top don't have that freedom.  They know that every client wants to summit and has paid for it. 

 

And I bet you don't get a lot of positive Yelp reviews and customer testimonials from the people you've told to stay back in camp...

8:00 a.m. on May 26, 2016 (EDT)
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Gerfriedgoeschl dot AT was one of our own experiences Austrian climbers and sometimes it's just bad luck.   He left behind family and friends.

8:45 a.m. on May 26, 2016 (EDT)
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absolutely.  bad weather, logjams, and altitude sickness exacerbated by both appear to have been the culprits here - certainly no one's fault.  

9:51 a.m. on May 26, 2016 (EDT)
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Humans do not belong much over 20,000 feet. The fact that is becoming more popular all the time even for laymen is disturbing to me.  Of course people are going to die.  It is a miracle that so few perish.

1:06 p.m. on May 26, 2016 (EDT)
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The commercial, guided mess on Everest and other major peaks, catering to people with more ambitions and money that mountaineering experience, is the antithesis of what climbing and the outdoors experience should be. 

One should learn self-sufficiency and judgement as a result of their outdoor trips, instead of buying that expertise.

The climbing paradox is that actually reaching the summit isn't the most important thing about climbing.  It's the trip and lessons learned that really matter.  That, and returning home in one piece....

2:04 p.m. on May 26, 2016 (EDT)
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Guiding in the mountains is a time-honored tradition. There was a time when hiring a guide would been a kind of "wimping out" out for me, but there are times and situations where it makes good sense. Some years ago I hired a guide to get my daughter and me up Store Skagastølstind here in Norway (in foul weather as it turned out, trip report), and would do so again to ascend a few other beautiful peaks that involve climbing that I don't have the skills and gears to lead. And years ago in Nepal I pooled resources with a Kiwi friend to hire a local Sherpa for a winter attempt on Island Peak, a little 20,000 foot zit in the shadow of Everest, but I turned due to altitude sickness. The problem is the crowding and the fact that is still a pretty high level and risky endeavor for anyone, even with guides and oxygen. The two together make a deadly recipe. And I suppose there are good guides and not so good ones, but we saw at least in 96 that even the good ones can get into trouble.

7:59 p.m. on May 26, 2016 (EDT)
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True, guiding is a time honored tradition, but that is not what is practiced on Everest today.  It is big money for the companies and for the Nepalese government, a major source of revenue.   it's the difference between a cottage industry and a major corporation.

I prefer to do my climbing on a smaller scale, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't necessarily employ a guide.

7:15 a.m. on May 27, 2016 (EDT)
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I hired a guide to help me get to the highest peak on the kosovo/albanian border.  It was summer, 8700 feet - a healthy day hike.  But in totally unfamiliar territory, and areas adjacent to the trail are still mined from the Balkan wars.  Guides not optional.

3:30 a.m. on May 30, 2016 (EDT)
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One of my climbing heroes was the late Walter Bonatti. He was once a guide, but gave it up as he felt that the guide's responsibility is to get the client to the summit and therefore it becomes a financial issue, rather than a spiritual quest. His feeling was that climbing was an individual pursuit, not that you do it alone, but that it is not, as Mallory once said, a conquest of nature. More it is a struggle with self. I would posit that the  climbing guides on Everest and other peaks contribute to many client's pursuits as merely one more chit on the bucket list. Perhaps that is the way climbing has gone today, but it is not the way I pursued it.

8:53 a.m. on May 30, 2016 (EDT)
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Erich - I agree but for the sherpa.  Different dynamic at stake, though I do think the financial piece plays a big role for them too.

1:34 a.m. on May 31, 2016 (EDT)
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Andrew, the sherpa have definitely benefited from the climbing and guiding community. However, the sherpa, as support for these clients, have only been around for perhaps 80 years, at most. Before the early English, the sherpa did live a life of support for European expeditions. The issue today, is that the sherpa have become different, and when they exercise their position, they are castigated. Better that Messner and Habler  climbed Everest without sherpa.

1:35 a.m. on May 31, 2016 (EDT)
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Andrew, the sherpa have definitely benefited from the climbing and guiding community. However, the sherpa, as support for these clients, have only been around for perhaps 80 years, at most. Before the early English, the sherpa did live a life of support for European expeditions. The issue today, is that the sherpa have become different, and when they exercise their position, they are castigated. Better that Messner and Habler  climbed Everest without sherpa.

2:30 a.m. on June 1, 2016 (EDT)
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Now I'm not a climber and I think those that do are very brave and no matter how one loses there life it's a sad thing especially when it's doing something they love. I ride motorcycles and am currently in the market for one,we all here enjoy the outdoors but things can go bad,some of us have dangerous jobs but we gotta pay the bills, I surf so I'm at the mercy of the ocean, some of yall climb,some skydive,some scuba dive, the list can go on and on the point is we all take the risk of death some more than others. Some like to push the limits and they know death is possible.It's still sad and some would ask why would they do that and a few if not all of us understand why they do it. So while I morn their passing I am proud of their efforts and accomplishments.

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