This past spring Mark Jenkins was part of the National Geographic/North Face climbing team on Everest. That group of climbers originally had their sights on the West Ridge but thanks to some unusual weather, which included drier and colder than normal conditions, the team abandoned that approach and went up the standard South Col route instead. Jenkins, along with his his teammates, reached the summit, and he is currently putting together a story about the climb for National Geographic magazine. That story isn’t due until 2013, but Nat Geo Adventure managed to catch up with Jenkins recently and posted an interview on their blog.
In the article Jenkins talks about how crowded Everest has become since guided expeditions started to become popular in the 1990’s. He also discusses ways that the climb could be safer and advocates requiring those attempting the world’s highest peak first earn some experience and skills on another Himalayan mountain. Mark also shares his thoughts on keeping Everest cleaner, pondering why “Leave No Trace” isn’t the de facto standard for climbers.
Mark touches on the mainstream view of Everest and how the non-climber sees it as the “ultimate trophy” in the climbing world. He says that there will always be people who want to test their skills on the mountain and therefore it could always be crowded, but in the mountaineering community it is looked on a bit more skeptically. Everest is seen as a “very surreal experience” according to Jenkins.
It’s a good interview with a man who isn’t afraid to share his thoughts on the annual spring circus that is Mt. Everest. I had the chance to hear Mark speak as part of a panel at Outdoor Retailer a few weeks back and made some very interesting points. He pointed out that there are in the neighborhood of about 15 routes to the summit of Everest and yet each year everyone crowds into the two main routes instead. Mark rightfully pointed out that there is still plenty to do on the mountain, but most climbers don’t really want to risk exploring one of the lesser known routes when they can join the stampede to the top along the usual paths.
If you’re an Everest fan, you’ll definitely want to read what he has to say in this story. Can’t wait to read his full article in NG mag next year.