Who is Responsible for Climbers on Everest?


As the Spring Climbing Season heats up and we get closer to the inevitable summit attempts on Everest, the community will begin to debate the ethics of climbing on the World’s highest peak and who is ultimately responsible for those climbing the mountain.

It is with that question in mind that The Adventurist presents this editorial entitled Responsiblity and Death on Everest. The article, in no uncerain terms, places the responsiblity clearly on the shoulders of the Expedition Leader for insuring the safety of their clients. The argument is that they know the climbers better than anyone, and it is their job to monitor their progress and the conditions on the mountain, and make the judgement call on who is fit to go up or down.

While I won’t disagree with this assessment, it’s not always that easy. For instance, the article mentions the David Sharp incident from last year, but in Sharp’s case, he was climbing independently. He had no guide or Expedition Leader to tell him to turn around and go down. He also was quite an experienced climber with experience on Everest before.

Obviously the guides do have a responsibility to their clients to see themoff the mountain safely, but the climate on Everest is one that has become about money, and it means more casth for their company if they have successful summits. The clients paying those large sums of money are also hell bent on getting to the top. They spent their cash and they expect to get their chance at the summit, with nothing getting in their way. You can point to the Sharp incident once again, when nearly 40 people stepped over and around him on the way to the summit that morning. Sharp was still alive when this happened.

In my mind, the best thing to do is to start limiting the number of permits to climb Everest. However, considering how much money is involved for both Nepal and China, I wouldn’t expect that to happen any time soon. The overcrowding is going to get worse, and in the process the risks are only going to increase as well. If something isn’t done about the situation, it’s likely that we’ll soon see a season that will make 1996 look tame.

3 thoughts on “Who is Responsible for Climbers on Everest?”

  1. Great post…I echo your thoughts entirely, and posted the same ideas on The Adventurist’s entry. He has some great thoughts, too, and I agree that the expedition leaders need to police themselves. But, Russell Brice (who is a friend of mine) is not the one to go after – he’s the proverbial 900 pound gorilla, and thus an easy target. But, the ones causing most of the real problems go unnoticed.

    As you mention, the changes need to originate with the permitting process – if you’re irresponsible, you don’t get a permit. Simple as that. Those of us who have been to Everest multiple times know who these outfitters are…the governments do, too. But, money talks, and Everest is a cash cow at all levels. Sadly, things will probably get worse before they get better.

    Thanks for your post,

    Jake Norton
    MountainWorld Productions
    Visit my blog: http://mountainworld.typepad.com

  2. Thanks for your comments Jake, and I agree that it’ll probably get worse before it gets better. It’s not in anyone’s interest for them to limit the number of permits at the moment, as that means capping the amount of cash that they’ll bring in.

    Awesome blog! I’m aware of another “MountainWorld” blog, but I like your content much better. I’m adding you to my blog roll immediately. Great stuff!

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