Sixty years ago today Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay blazed a trail to the summit of Everest. Many have since followed, over 3,000 have reached the top including a 13 year and an 80 year old. This year more 500 climbers have reached the summit and the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal has proposed installing a ladder on the Hillary Step 12m (40ft) from the summit of the 8,848m (29,028ft) mountain to ease congestion.
Climbers leave their rubbish behind on Everest
Mountaineers are tourists too. They meet the definition of staying for more than 24 hours in someone else’s place. And they create problems in the destination. Getting to Everest has been made a lot easier with the airport at Lukla, Khumbu and new roads being constructed particularly on the Chinese side.
The climbing of Everest has got easier. The equipment is better, oxygen is used, the Sherpa guides have fixed ropes and created a hardened track up to the peak. There has been a suggestion that a ladder should be installed at the Hillary Step to easy the bottleneck. As tourism develops the journey times are shortened and the services proliferate making access easier. Everest is no different to any other destination – it causes congestion. Activity tourism has diversified with reports of people skiing, snowboarding and paragliding on the mountain and now Valery Rozov has made the highest ever jump (7,220m) from it. Mark Inglis, the first double amputee reached the summit in May 2006
There are reports of people paying up to $100,000 for their opportunity to summit and to get the ultimate trophy photo. For some serious climbers this has devalued the Everest challenge and they complain that it is no longer a wilderness experience. Quite so.
According to National Geographic in 1990 18% of summit attempts were successful. In 2012 56% were successful. On one day last year 234 climbers reached the peak. This produced Ralf Dujmovits famous photograph of the queue snaking up Everest and of course complaints from climbers that other climbers were spoiling the experience, just as when we complain of traffic we never consider ourselves to be a part of the problem.
There used to be a limit on the number of climbers, the Nepalese used to license only one group on each summit route, that was relaxed in 1985. Big revenues are at stake and it seems unlikely that limits will be reimposed.
There is no police presence on Everest and there has been a high altitude brawl. Everest is crowded and there are conflicts between different user groups. There is a fascinating Al Jazeera piece avaialble on Youtube Early
Early reports of the conflict on Everest on 27th April came primarily from the three western climbers but as a fuller picture emerged and the fighting has to be seen in the broader context of the conflicts between the independent climbers and the commercial climbing which creates employment for Sherpas. Read more These tensions will only increase.
The climbers leave behind hundreds of tonnes of human waste, abandoned climbing gear, discarded tents and dumped food packaging. There are even dead bodies frozen in situ on the mountainside. Read more in the Metro
Antarctica is no different either. The same processes as playing out there.
Read more BBC Magazine
There is a great 60th anniversary film about ascents of Everest on Al Jazeerah watch video