Everest

Everest was in the media lots a few weeks ago. There was all this hullabaloo about a heated fist fight featuring Ueli Steck, and then a nutter in a wingsuit performed a high-altitude base jump. Yes... in this modern day and age, just getting to the top of Everest doesn't really mean anything.

Since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent 60 years ago, more than 3500 people have successfully reached the top (and made it down again). This might not seem like a very large amount, but the number of yearly ascents grows every year, and considering the fact that the seasons and conditions allow such a small window of opportunity for success, there is no escaping the fact that Everest is now overcrowded. Probably a very tiny percentage of those who successfully reach the top are professional mountaineers. The majority are guided on this 'glorified walk' for sums of money reaching past $100,000 and some clients are even short-roped and pulled to the top with minimal effort on their part. Base-camp is filled with litter that past climbers have left behind to avoid carrying it out on their backs, and the concentrated number of people in the area has led to uncontained sewage and general disturbance to the environment.

Personal opinions aside, the fact remains that standing on the top of Everest doesn't carry the same level of glory as it did 60 years ago. If I divulge my opinions I'd add that with people being able to pay their way to the summit, its become more like an extortionate tourist attraction than a heroic feat. Perhaps one day it will be just like all the great European cathedrals, where you pay to get inside and you also need to buy an extra ticket to go up to the cupola. In my opinion, nature should be free, and if you don't have enough experience to get to the top, then you shouldn't be up there in the first place. Not only because it shouldn't be an achievement you can pay for, but because Everest is a dangerous place. Yes, 3500 different people have stood on the summit but there have been over 230 reported deaths, and exposure to the extreme conditions has severely injured or impaired countless others.

I love mountains but I do not have the intention of climbing Mount Everest. I neither possess the skill nor will to, and my interest in outdoor pursuits lie elsewhere than in paying to belong to the elite club of Everest. I'd rather challenge myself in other ways, and Everest shouldn't be a paved toll road, it should be a challenge; a winding, overgrown path of twists and turns where getting to the end unscathed is actually something to be proud of.

As part of my outdoor anthology, I did an illustration for an article written by Ernest F. Imhoff titled '
Mount Everest No Place For Trophy-Collecting'. The article isn't very recent but the same issues are still true if not even more apparent.. Here is the final illustration!