If you have ever climbed a mountain, you know how it feels. As you go up, your body starts to feel heavier, your lungs have less and less air, and it may even happen that your head gets a bit dizzy. Yet, the feeling of accomplishment after a great effort, and the happiness of being able to grasp the world from a little bit higher, are even more breathtaking – in a good sense. Being able to exceed oneself and also to defy nature, while being more in contact with it, motivates many people to climb mountains.
Today, the ultimate destination for this type of adrenaline-seekers remains Mount Everest, in the Himalayas, despite the fact that this mountain range has other incredibly difficult peaks, such as the K2 or the Lhotse.
Rising 8 848 meters above the sea level, only those who have made it to the top can imagine the effort that it takes to get there. Research says that the risks that one faces while climbing the Everest are as high as traveling to space… Faced with the mountain, we understand how little we are.
It is thus no wonder that many do lose their lives while trying to get to the top, something which is more and more shown by the media. Today, getting to Mount Everest is not as hard as it was thirty years ago. If you have money (knowing that an expedition can cost between 50 000$ to 100 000$) and have already climbed other peaks, it is quite normal that you attempt this adventure, regardless of your actual skills and strength to endure the journey.
While in 1980, around 200 people attained the Base Camp (which reaches around 5 000 meters, depending if your are climbing the North face or the South face) per year, today, around 1 000 people get there. Half of those are generally able to get to the top. After 8 000 meters you enter the “Death Zone”, where oxygen is only 33% of that available at sea level. You can use oxygen masks, but even so it is not an easy task.
If the number of deaths per climb has not increased since 1980 (it has decreased), there are still far too many risks and most of them are actually caused by excess of people on the mountain. You can only climb Everest during a certain period of the year. Thus, hundreds of people make the toughest climb in the world in a very short period of time, something which is not sustainable for the mountain itself and carries great risk for those involved. Many deaths are caused by simple accidents due to excessive weight in sensitive areas, or avalanches and other natural causes, as was recently the case with the 16 Nepalese sherpas who died, in the most deadliest day ever on Mount Everest. This accident is even more a shame because these sherpas were trying to help less-experienced climbers to get to the top, and it is not the first. When bad weather strikes, people have to wait to make the final climb, which leads sometimes hundreds of people to make the final meters at the same time when the weather clears up.
Beyond this, the mountain is more and more polluted by the debris that these expeditions leave behind. From oxygen tanks to simple garbage, to human bodies (because you can hardly recover the bodies of those who die after the Base Camp), Everest has become a wasteland (there are up to 10 tons of waste in the mountain). Besides the work that is already done by some sherpas, Nepalese authorities are now demanding that climbers come down with a few kilos of trash.
If we are to preserve this amazing beauty and richness for future generations, climbing mountains (particularly the Everest) ought to have more regulation and restrictions. Not only for the sake of the mountain, but also for the sake of the people who depend on it for a living, and of those who want to explore it.