You have to wonder what celebrated climber Sir Edmund Hillary would make of this week’s images from Mt Everest.
A trying to make it to the summit. , 11 having lost their lives in 10 days. Oxygen-deprived climbers jostling with each other for their place in the queue. Others being dragged down as life drains from their bodies.
It’s a ghastly glimpse of humanity at its worst and one I’m sure would horrify the humble man who first pitted himself against the tallest mountain in the world.
In 2003, 50 years after he climbed Everest, the climber told me the mountain needed a break.
“Human life,” he said, “is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain”.
Sixteen years later we need to close the damn mountain. Pull out the ladders over the Khumbu Icefall. Put up a stop sign. Forbid anyone walking past Base Camp and broadcast to the world that Chomolungma, what the Tibetans call “Goddess Mother of Mountains”, can now rest both in majesty and peace.
I deplore the harnessing of nature and I’m not advocating a gate at the base of Everest to save these idiots from themselves. Rather, having climbed in the Himalayas, I believe the mountain should be honoured from afar and saved from becoming a squalid human graveyard. Climbing Everest is not sport or “living your best life”; it’s become the epitome of heartless, self-serving arrogance.
Climbing Everest is no longer a test of human endeavour for the world’s most experienced mountaineers. Instead, it has become a grotesque theme park for cashed-up, kitted-up corporates and thrillseekers who see it as a notch on their belt and a post on their Instagram.
The mountain is making monsters out of all of us: the middle-class adventure seekers who clearly think it requires little more training than a Saturday fun run; the companies responsible for this ugly commercialisation of risk; the voyeurs who click on the ever more disturbing photographs and video that pop up each May as the perilously short climbing season gets underway.