The New York Times Looks at What it Takes to Climb Everest

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It isn’t often that mountaineering and adventure sports get coverage from the mainstream media, let alone the “paper of record.” But a few days back The New York Times posted an interesting article sharing details on just what it takes to climb Mt. Everest.

The article is written for someone who doesn’t necessarily know a lot about mountaineering in general, or Everest specifically. It answers basic questions like how tall is the mountain and how do you even get there? It tackles tougher issues such as how many people die on the mountain each year and how many summit too. It also talks about the costs involved, explains who the Sherpas are, and delves into the challenges of making the climb too.

I appreciate that the Times actually published a story about Everest that doesn’t revolve entirely around the death of a climber. That is a step in the right direction. But, the story still focuses heavily on that aspect of climbing the world’s tallest peak, dedicating quite a bit of attention to how many bodies are on the mountain, how people die, and the primary dangers that they face. The story even describes the effects of high altitude on the human body, leaning a bit towards the sensationalistic.

As I’ve said on this blog many times before, the mainstream media seems to get a lot of attention out of playing up any tragedy that occurs on Everest and stressing how dangerous the mountain is. But, as we know, the death-to-summit ratio on the mountain is incredibly low compared to some of the other 8000-meter peaks, making it safer than most think. Last year, six people died while 648 reached the summit. That is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 1.5% death rate, which by climbing standards isn’t especially high. All death’s on Everest are tragic, but it isn’t the killer mountain that the media would like us to believe. Heaven forbid they should ever hear about K2 or Annapurna.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now and say that overall, the article is an interesting and fairly informative one for anyone who has a passing interest in mountaineering in the Himalaya. Hopefully, this will spur some of them to dig a little deeper.

Kraig Becker