Never thought I’d see the day where headlines announce overcrowding of the slopes on Mount Everest. Not in droves, but recent news reports have highlighted an increase in the number of mountain climbers who have undertaken the task to complete the arduous climb. Some do it or forever rest where they have fallen. Sherpas who are professional guides help to carry equipment to the top. They lead climbers, hikers, celebrities and groups up the dangerous mountain terrain to an altitude where only planes fly, and at the peril of their own lives.
I take my hat off to all those who have reached Everest’s zenith or are in the throes of planning the hike up some other treacherous mountain. Truly, it is not for the faint of heart. Everest is the tallest mountain on earth, the peak scaling 29,029 feet. Before even reaching the summit, the climb up causes the body to gasp for air. Oxygen is thinner at the 26,000 feet elevation and beyond, otherwise called the “death zone.” Some effects the climber may experience there include exhaustion, delirium, incoherence, and moments of insanity, all due to the inability to breathe in enough oxygen.
Mount Everest has proven to be a perilous nature challenge, but lately, more and more people are taking up the dare. Optimum fitness levels and pertinent climbing skills help to achieve the goal of reaching the pinnacle. However, some persons have not been so fortunate. According to an article in Business Insider, 11 people have died just this spring alone from trying to reach the crest. Overall, it is recorded that the steep mountain has claimed the lives of 306 people to date. As if the tough climb was not enough to drain the experienced climber, they bypass frozen dead bodies, now a part of the landscape, which must present a mental conflict as they trudge slowly upward. Besides the real dangers the assent poses, hikers say the 20 minute limit spent on the peak is worth every bit of trouble before descending to base camp.
What is causing this sudden surge in interest with respects to Everest? Have the situation become easier or more navigable than in prior years? I don’t think so. The dangers certainly are the same. Plus, thin air, avalanches pose the most serious threat to climbers. In 2018, an avalanche took the lives of 16 Sherpas. So, what pushes the hiker to go all the way to the apex? Could it be to enjoy the view (which I am told is out of this world), to claim bragging rights, to take photos, to be a part of an elite group of mountaineers? Whatever the reason, losing life or limb is a hard price to pay for 20 minutes of goal satisfaction.
Everest may be the only place on earth that my itinerary plans would recommend, turning back, until better circumstances, better fitness, and better overall conditions could be met. I believe in accepting limits and preserving life in order to try again another day. The thought of forging ahead at the risk of your own life, just because you may have considerable expedition expense loss, wasted time and talent, or because you say to yourself, “I’ve come too far to turn back” may not be prudent thinking. Another day, another attempt, another opportunity may present itself if you are determined to one day achieve the goal.
The closest I will ever come to Everest is when I visit Nepal, which I hope to do some day. It would be amazing to rise to the heights, but I can still remember my experience when I climbed Table Mountain in South Africa. That mountain would be considered a hill to the likes of the mighty Everest. Even though, it does not hold many of the risks found on Everest, it proved to be a strain to me physically and mentally. The venture took me twice the time to complete. My legs felt like stumps, at times my heart felt like it would burst inside my chest, and the residue of salt squeezed out through my pores from sweat were caked on my face by the time I reached the top. I looked a frightful sight but the view at the crown was fantastic and worth the effort.
Although climbing the South African peak did not pose a danger or threat to my life, they were many times on the trail I felt like giving up. The battle to continue was as much a mental one as it was physical. I achieved the personal goal, gained bragging rights, took awesome photos and relaxed before descending via the cable car. My experience on Table Mountain pales in comparison to what the Sherpas and professional climbers do on Everest. Yet, my attitude to such an undertaking is if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Do not risk your life unnecessarily. Live to try again.
Community Peeps, mountain climbers and hiking enthusiasts, what has been your experience on climbs? What challenge or difficulties did you face? Please share your experience in the comment box below.
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