Judy Kucharuk: Should Mount Everest be closed to climbers?


The headline reads, “Krispy Kreme to open store at Everest Base Camp” and we wouldn’t even bat an eyelid. I can see it in my mind's eye: A large, inflatable donut with plastic sprinkles blowing amidst the flags dotting the horizon above the tent city.

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Investors would comment, “It was the perfect place for a new franchise outlet! Do you know how long some of those people hang around at Base Camp before they climb? It is a captive clientele.”

After the first climbing season, critics would complain that there were to-go cups littering the mountain and that some local guides were no longer able to climb because of weight-gain. Instagram was flooded with photos of climbers reaching the summit while clenching a Krispy Kreme in one hand and planting a flag with the other. The donut wrapper was left at the summit.

This is why we as a society cannot have nice things. Nice things like untouched wilderness or pristine mountains.

We simply cannot help ourselves from screwing things up. I'm surprised no one has decided to build a road up Mount Everest so that “everyone can enjoy the view” because that is the world we live in; a world where everyone is allowed to participate.

Every year, we read about multiple, preventable tragedies occurring on Mount Everest, and 2019 has been no different.

As I write this, there have been 11 deaths on the mountain and a number of them occurred recently during an overcrowding incident while climbers pushed for the summit. The photo of the long line of climbers waiting for nearly two hours in the death zone was shocking. The death zone is that area before the actual summit where the air is very thin, so thin that it is almost incompatible with life unless supplementary oxygen is used.

What else can we humans screw up while fulfilling our greedy, emotional needs?

It's incredibly difficult and expensive to climb Mount Everest. I read in one article that permits are priced at approximately $11,000 and that does not include all of your supplies and climbing support. The Nepalese Climbing Guides are risking their lives for spoiled brats who believe that if you throw enough money at something, you will be successful. I would venture to say that it's not in everyone’s capabilities. Just because you have the money and the will, does not mean that you should give it the ol’ college try.

But they do try. Ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, hundreds of climbers have followed in their footsteps. How do we know that? The bodies left behind are grim reminders of how the trek can be fatal.

I think about the family members who last spoke with their loved one in the days leading up to their push to the summit. The crackling of the satellite phone as they strained to hear the words, “I love you”.

Robin Fisher, a British climber who sadly passed away during his descent, shared this to his Instagram feed in the days leading up to his death:

“With a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game.”

Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes. You can follow her on twitter @judylaine

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