Everest

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Everest

Mount Everest, the world’s highest point at 29,035 feet, is a special trophy among high altitude mountaineers. Standing atop the world’s highest point a hypoxic climber clad in a fluorescent down suit is above everything else on the planet, for a moment that individual can reach farther into the sky than any other. Arms raised in a victorious salute, a climber feels like they have conquered something that few others ever have, and justifiably so. The summit is usually the final fruition of months, sometimes years of planning, weeks of travel and acclimatization, and days of endless plodding at a feeble, learning-to-walk pace.

Climbers who have devoted years to the sport may never have a chance at Everest, yet it seems that those with the monetary means can get to the top, not through years of preparing, but by the simple addition of a signature to a check. Those without the experience somehow make up for their lack of skills by paying others to cover their shortcomings, in preparing everything from travel and logistics, to providing gear, food, accommodations, and a support team. The clients of guided trips can go so far as to have a mountain professional literally lead the way, every step, to the top.

A major problem with the amateurs on Everest is the inherent need for a guide to the summit. In a high altitude alpine setting one person’s skills or experience should not be used as coverage for a lack in another’s. Being literally led by hand along a lofty snow-ridge, towards the summit, and then back down again, is no way to climb, descend or spend any amount of time on a mountain. Guiding, although a monetarily lucrative business, and possibly fine at lower altitudes, is not responsible in a high altitude mountaineering setting.

In a May 23rd, 1996 Outside Magazine online chat with Jon Krakauer, a client on a guided expedition and the to-be author of Into Thin Air, an account of the 1996 Everest disaster, expressed his feelings about guiding on Everest. He agreed with a contributor that guides on Everest are bound to their clients and actually are paid to take care of them. He also contributed that, although he was an extremely accomplished climber, he would never consider guiding, if only for the fact that he wouldn’t “want (his) life to be determined by some guy tripping over his crampons and pulling (him) off (the mountain).

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