Everest Going Downhill

The world’s highest mountain has become overcrowded and polluted, reports Mark Jenkins, in large part due to its draw as a tourist destination for inexperienced climbers:

Everest has always been a trophy, but now that almost 4,000 people have reached its summit, some more than once, the feat means less than it did a half century ago. Today roughly 90 percent of the climbers on Everest are guided clients, many without basic climbing skills. Having paid $30,000 to $120,000 to be on the mountain, too many callowly expect to reach the summit. A significant number do, but under appalling conditions. The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted, with garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement befouling the high camps. And then there are the deaths. Besides the four climbers who perished on the Southeast Ridge, six others lost their lives in 2012, including three Sherpas.

James Joyner is pessimistic:

The prospects of this happening are dismal. Nepal is a poor country and the government took in over $3 million in permit fees last year and climbers brought an estimated $12 million into the local economy. The corrupt, incompetent government diverts the money it brings in, re-investing very little in safety and cleanup of Everest.

Kashish Das Shrestha, a writer who offered insight into a sherpa’s view of the mountain’s “traffic jam” last year, compares his observations with Jenkins’s, noting the similarity of their visions for reform. From his May 2012 report:

While shutting down Everest for a season or two might seem radical, at least fiscally, it actually might not be.  There are 326 peaks that are open for mountaineering in Nepal. Of that, 25 are in the Solukhumbu region.

So shutting Everest down temporarily would not mean taking away revenues from Solukhumbu or the Sagarmatha National Park. It would only mean being able to offer a safer Mount Everest down the line, while promoting other peaks in the region and the country.

Mount Everest is not, and should not, be treated like an expensive amusement park. And nobody’s permit fee is bigger than somebody’s safety more than 7,000 meters above sea level.

In an update, he indicates that hope is not lost:

I was recently told that if one wanted the government to respond to certain public discourses, a document outlining the discourse or proposed policy suggestions had to be submitted to the relevant Minister or Secretary of the relevant Ministry. Perhaps it is worth submitting Mark’s and my propositions to those offices, as well as to the industry’s trade body, to see if there is a response.