Friday, 10 May 2013

Can enough be said about Everest?

Is the kind of stuff happening on Everest even remotely associated with what we call climbing or alpinism? I would say no, but thats just me... I can't find words to describe what I feel about this... I only note that through out history, Everest has always been a place of excessive consumerism.

Some time have now passed since the distinguished trio got kicked off the mountain after trying to do some real alpine climbing. Many have commented on the events and this is just an other post about the Everest shit show. I found it quite interesting to read Russell Brice defensive comments on his corporate website and I think it reflects the Everest industry sentiment. 

In all its glory and rich history Everest stands tall but the history of true alpine climbing is limited to a few sporadic moments barley remembered and not that well known to the larger audience. 

Many of us who dedicate time to climbing mountains don’t care that much about Everest. It’s been a lost cause for a long time and the recent event just proves the point that Everest is Babylon*. The sad state of affairs on the mountain dates back to the era of national pride, where any means to reach the summit was accepted as long as the flag of a sovereign state would feature on the summit picture. 

Why would any one want to go to Everest?

Given the history of Everest and the fact that Everest is not a mountaineers mountain, I think its relevant to ask why such a distinguished trio of outstanding alpinists chose to go to Everest?

I think most of us agree that the Himalayas is full of much more attractive mountains on which to open cutting edge lines. We can hike up virtually any valley in the greater ranges and be bombarded with amazing unclimbed lines of much better quality compared to what one can find on Everest. And all the unclimbed objects come with the added benefit of lacking annoying and violent crowds. I con only speculate and that is pointless. 

Cash is king

Are today’s money making tour operators on Everest taking the same kind of social, environmental and economical responsibilities as we take for granted in any other normal business? Can IMG, AAI, JG, Global Adventure, Arun, Peak Freaks, Himex, Astrek, Miura and Seven Summits, show that they are not just shamelessly exploiting the Everest region for profits? My guess is that the answer is a big fat no. And this is, in my opinion, probably the single most frustrating issue with the concept pre packed guided trips to the Everest region. 

Is this not the real reason behind the recent lynching of the Trio?

It’s a common misperception that Everest tourism is bringing in significant income to Nepal as a country. However, not a single major guiding company operating on Everest is incorporated and based in Nepal and therefore not paying corporate taxes and taking real corporate social and environmental responsibility in Nepal. If you sign up with Chamonix based HIMEX for an Everest expedition you will be instructed to pay for your trip up the tallest mountain in the world to a bank account at UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) in Geneva. 

In real economical terms only a tiny fraction of what a western client pays for his Everest expedition is actually spent in Nepal to the benefit of not only the high altitude Sherpa’s but also the country (UN economical data on GDP revenue sources in Nepal). Its so marginal that one might be able to argue that a team of four attempting Annapurna IV in alpine style might actually be a bigger or at least an equal net contributor to the economy in Nepal. How ever it should be mentioned as pointed out to me that teh peak fee is going to the Government of Nepal. 

A few high altitude Sherpa’s and their families in the Khumbu valley have no doubt benefitted from the hype on Everest in the short term and that’s great for them. But the real question is whether the Everest game is a sustainable way of doing business? Is the whole commercial guiding culture (operators and Sherpas) of greed to be blamed for the lynching of the trio? I think so. 

One mountain but not for every one...

The events that played out at 7200 metes tells me only one thing, it’s all about the clients need and in order to retain clients and get a job as a high altitude Sherpa you need to perform. The guided trips and package tours take precedence over any other ambitions present at Everest. John Griffith is reporting that an influential individual (I speculate Russell Brice) has demanded that every issued Everest Permit should come with the condition that no one is allowed to climb above rope fixing Sherpas. That would be one of the single most tragic developments in mountaineering history. If this becomes the reality I guess its only a question of time before this will spread to neighboring Nuptse and Lhotse not to mention Ama Dablam etc. etc.  
Deal with the real issues 

When discussing the Everest issues, lets be honest and transparent. Its about money and business. Its guiding companies lobbying for the future of their business. If this issue was isolated to Everest its might be containable, but when browsing the web looking through the commercial outfitters offerings I notice that I can get dragged up a rarely climbed route on Ama Dablam, the SW Ridge on Cholatse and from the looks of it, even Nuptse is now on the menu.  It’s a disaster in motion and something has to be done about this development. 

Russell Brice, HIMEX posted this:
"We are right on schedule and the ropes on Mount Everest have been fixed all the way to the South Col at 7,900m while the ropes are only 150m short of the summit of Lhotse. The Himex Sherpas also used the low-wind-period and fixed the route on Nuptse all the way to 7,400m."
Source: Himalayan Experience

I think its essential that the people involved in today’s commercial circus on Everest and its surrounding peaks in the Khumbu region take a hard look at what they are doing to the area. They exploit the area for profit and other dubious reasons. Its time to shift to a sustainable business model that is for the real benefit Nepal on a macro level and allow every aspiring alpinist space on the mountains. After all they are mountains and not an amusement park.  

* According to Babylon is used to indicate a strong and powerful, yet corrupted and immoral place.

© Copyright 2013 - All Rights Reserved David Falt