Crap article in my opinion.
Thanks for posting, but I agree with the other posters, that's a really bad article.
Well that got my blood boiling...
That is possibly the worst piece of "journalism" I've ever seen.
The upshot is, the author is massive, no wonder she doesn't get it...
Have you read the article? Some quotations:
"There is an explicit madness attached to serious mountaineering; a desire for pain, isolation and submission, either of man or mountain, whichever breaks first. There is something necrophiliac to it. But this is the game, and it is all the more fascinating to outsiders for being ill-expressed by those in thrall to it... George Mallory was famously asked before it killed him in 1924 and swallowed his corpse... all the better to facilitate the disgusting Freudian apogee of these expensive holidays... As conditions are made safe for these blithe cretins... This is hubris. As commercial climbing has exploded, Everest has shifted from an explicit wasteland to a moral and internal one which also serves as a perfect
metaphor for the contempt in which we hold the planet... dead bodies – they are too difficult and expensive to recover – and sometimes the dying too. You could call them a macabre attraction... most climb Everest on Sherpa legs."
Its an opinion piece about the behaviour of some people involved with climbing Everest.
Yeah I read it. Which of the bit you quoted do you object to, in the context of Everest? I'm not sure of the comparison with our views about the planet but other than that, it seems a reasonable viewpoint.
She says the following about "serious mountaineering" [not about Everest], "explicit madness ... a desire for pain, isolation and submission ... There is something necrophiliac to it".
I do not like that.
She says about George Mallory on Everest, "it...swallowed his corpse".
I do not like that.
She says about Everest, "the disgusting Freudian apogee" and "these blithe cretins" and "dead bodies...a macabre attraction".
I do not like that.
Well I don't like the circus on Everest either but it certainly exists. There are dead bodies, and questionable behaviour around leaving those injured. The widely reported "death rates" for Everest and K2 etc do suggest a necrophiliac aspect to things. And that aspect does seem to be part of the attraction for some. Mallory's body was swallowed (allowing for poetic licence).
Jagged Globe are on their on their way home, as indeed it seems are all the other expeditions from the south side. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out for next year.
One of the common complaints about the Everest circus from 'proper' climbers is the way in which anyone with enough money can buy their way to the top, without any real mountaineering skill, sense or experience. Might it not be fair to categorise some of those people as 'blithe cretins'?
You might not like the fact that dead bodies are strewn over the mountain, but there's no doubt that there are many many photographs of the corpses, which now seem to be part of the experience, suggesting a morbid fascination, at the very least.
way I look at it ,its an opinion you may not agree with any of it but its just an outsiders view of the Game ....
Uneasy reading, but probably hits the nail on the head.
It's a poorly written opinion piece. I think it reflects the views of a fairly large number of people though...that mountaineering is about the stupidest waste of life in existence. I can see why they think that and won't go out of my way to argue with them. I think sitting on your arse watching BGT is worse, but that's my bag.
I agree with some of what she says. Do I think it is a pretty lame thing to do to get locals to fix ropes so you can jug up while sucking O2 to get to the top? Yeah, very lame. Does the thought of people leaving others to die to go for the summit make me want to puke? Again, yes. Let's not dismiss the whole thing just because she dissed 'mountaineering.'
Her railing against the disparity in wealth between the climbers and sherpas is pretty narrow minded...but the article is to provoke a response, not thoughts.
Doubt that the current situation over there will affect me at all, given my intention never to be a massive Everest punter.
I don't know if she does "diss" mountaineering in general, tbh. That first paragraph reads almost like something John Redhead could have written...
Fair point. I suppose 'swallowed his corpse' is her interpretation of 'provided an icy tomb' or whatever poetic slant people usually choose to put on it.
I doubt I will be running into her at Stanage.
It would certainly seem from Tim's piece that there is a lot of infighting and politics within the Sherpa community - maybe a fight for 'leadership' based on clashing personalities, certain sherpas connections with the maoist movement, a general dissatisfaction with the Nepali govt and other feuds that are now spilling over into this situation.
All this may have catastrophic effects on the whole 'Everest' economy.
Apparently over 400 Nepalis have died building stadia in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup - high risk and badly paid - but no one seems to notice that.
Post from Alan Arnette
Translation: Those people who have spent a lot of money to get up there using a (ready made) track would be better off having climbed a 6000m peak with one Sherpa for a fraction of the sum ... They spend a lot of money and think they have climbed the Everest. In reality they have not understood the Everest and have not climbed it (themselves), but they have made a lot of other people run to their deaths. The responsibility for that is not the client's, it's the organizers'. The clients are the naive part of a thing that is completely contradictory: they are trying to buy a (kind of) prestige that can never be bought.
I've about the deaths in Qatar and it's gets coverage being related to a world cup.
Yes. The the totally authoritative word of a true mountaineering prophet and messiah.
It has been fairly widely reported in my experience.
I wouldn't go that far, I've only been to the Ben three times.
Thanks for posting that, as usual Messner talks a lot of sense.
I have climbed a 6,000 m peak with 1 sherpa and no sherpa and climbed Everest. I can barely remember the day trips up Island Peak but Everest is an experience that for me will always remain an extremely vivid and rewarding experience.
I hate to get in the way of everyone's preconceived ideas of Everest but I never saw any corpses. We paid $USD33,000 for the trip and of our group only now are some of us back in the black after taking out loans. My friend Mike Herbert was saved from the help of numerous people sherpa and westerners and my overall feeling was that people really helped each out in distress.
That's very interesting but did anyone else think that at the core of Tim's post was, to use English terminology from the 80s, a sense that western commercial operators are annoyed that some bolshie shop stewards are trying (succeeding?) to keep their good workers out on strike? At least though it paints Sherpas as a real political community with internal difference and tensions just like anywhere else, and helps people move on from the rather dewy eyed romanticized view of sherpas we often hear
There certainly seems a romanticised view of the communities in Nepal. As you say they will have their own mix of strong personalities and politics as any where else.
On a different not I'm astonished this sponsor of a Romanian Expedition is still merrily promoting it's products and activities on the mountain as if very little had happened.
Having read Tim's piece I thought it tried to sidestep the financial side of the whole affair.
The cost, per client, seems to be about $45,000. All of this is paid upfront one assumes because there is kit to buy, permits to buy, sherpas to hire, guides to hire etc etc.
It seems that the sherpa's who did not return after they were allowed to mourne the loss of there friends will not be getting paid. One assumes that as the expedition has left then the sherpa's who did return will only get paid up until the expedition was cancelled.
As the western guides did not get to work for the season on the mountain, will they be being paid?
All the kit that was bought to fix ropes, bottled oxygen etc will not be being used. The ropes and hardware can be used for next year but can the bottled oxygen be stored for next year? Or will it be returned and monies given to the families of the lost sherpa's?
Will the clients be getting any form of refund?
Will they be offered reduced rates for next year?
There is potential for the sherpa's to get nothing from this awful year yet the treking companies could be making a substantial profit. I really hope this is not the case.
Nothing much more to be said.
I think it was in the Krakauer piece in the New Yorker (or something else I read yesterday that said most of the costs are upfront, hence clients get very little back if the trip is cancelled because the money is mostly spent in advance.
I have no real idea, but I suspect despite the huge amount of money involved, the people who own the trekking companies that guide Everest aren't making silly money out of it. I'm sure it is profitable -otherwise why keep doing it?- but I guess most of those companies come from reasonably 'organic' within mountaineering origins so the companies got going because the founders loved the Himalayas, rather than they were investors with nothing to do with mountaineering just looking for profit making opportunities. If anyone knows more about this, I'd love to hear.
this year's climbing permits have been extended for five years. but I wonder how many people will go next year. would you pay out tens of thousands of dollars for a trip until there is some certainty that you will be able to attempt to climb? that would mean less jobs for the locals on the mountain and less cash going into the local economy - think of the tea houses etc on the route up as well as the Sherpas directly involved in expeditions. it's easy to see this in terms of black and white or right and wrong, but it's far from clear what all the long term consequences will be for all parties involved.
Typical Guardian shod. 'Treated like pack animals' sounds like nonsense?
I understand Sherpas to be well paid given the circumstances?
It is certainly true that there is a great deal of economic interest riding on Everest climbing (both within and without Nepal), also that the Sherpas are not forced at gunpoint to work there, indeed those that do are highly regarded locally (as well as being very well paid relative to their society, like an deep sea diver getting danger money). It is both dangerous and arrogant to assume that Sherpas or Nepalis generally have no ability to take their own decisions, or to way up pros and cons for themselves, a kind of mental imperialism to which certain mindsets are particularly prone.
It is interesting to compare this tragedy with recent ones in the French Alps. Clearly this was a massive avalanche (seemingly from a serac whose stability has been doubted for quite a while), but there have been 2 major avalanche incidents in the Mont Blanc massif in recent years, on the faces of Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit. Again, it was quite well known that these faces are quite dangerous due to both their aspect and the fact that the path is more or less forced to weave around seracs of doubtful stability, yet they are still important and heavily used voi Normalles. From memory, the numbers killed in those 2 (very serious), incidents are comparable to the casualties of this one case, yet no-one is suggesting closing down Chamonix or stopping cablecars there. Again, there is a large economic interest in keeping mountaineering going in the Mont Blanc massif, but this time it is almost entirely white European people who have a motive for doing so (as well as being guides/workers and sometimes being killed as a result).
Mountaineering is not (and never has been), divorced from politics and economics, much though we might like to imagine so. Personally I have had considerable disquiet about the Everest circus for a long time, on the other hand I will probably never again climb in the greater ranges so that may not be relevant. If I did, however, I would much prefer to go for a smaller peak, with minimal support and on an unknown route.
'also that the Sherpas are not forced at gunpoint to work there'
The same way that the working masses of this country in the 19thC were not forced at gunpoint to work in the towns and cities..........
But they did so to survive which is what most Sherpa's have to do to earn a living. True some are very well paid and all (should be) well respected. An earlier post suggested that the climbers at Base Camp should try to lead the route themselves...............
I have a lot of respect for anyone who has climbed Everest however I do not hold them in the same light as Bonington, Whillans, Brown, Messner, Buhl, Diemberger, Boardman, Tasker, Rouse et al as those mountaineers forged their own way and relied on their own skills and judgment as to whether a route was feasible / possible.
I agree with Messner that many of these 'adventure' companies attempt to sanitise the big mountains and personally I would find it much more rewarding doing a smaller peak with a bunch of friends. The Himalayan governments also need to do their bit in encouraging people to visit their country by making permits for the smaller peaks easier and cheaper to obtain to encourage a greater dispertion of mountaineers and visitors to the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Everest will always be an attraction (for some)but perhaps Nepal should introduce a policy of forcing the paying clients to assist in setting up the icefall route and let them share some of the risk too.
Having bumblimg clients to look after as well while Sherpas fix the icefall would, I imagine, only increase the risk to the Sherpas
Try not to introduce cliched left-wing whining and preachy self-righteousness into the discussion of a contemporary issue, it simply muddies the waters and tends to produce stereotyped reactions in return, rather than objectively considering the situation on Everest.
No-one has absolute choices in this life, but Sherpas are not forced to work on Everest and many do not. They choose to do so, from a community quite familiar with the risks.
Who mentioned politics ? I was merely stating a historical fact. As for self righteousness I ask nothing of others that I am not prepared to do myself..........
Right, lunch time over back to the mill ...............
Good Lord. How could any climber possibly object to calling Everest wannabes ‘blithe cretins’? It seems like the very least that could be said.
I don’t like Ms Gold as a rule, and obviously she doesn’t know much about mountaineering, but as mainstream pieces on climbing go I thought that was pretty good.
Incidentally, I wonder how the Sherpas-are-all-wonderful-humble-people brigade react to the stuff in Mr Mosedale’s post someone linked to?
I find it a cheap shot, and insulting, and also untrue. Let's talk specifically, about 3 people. Have you read the 1996 book Into Thin Air?
*Is Beck Weathers a blithe cretin?
*Is Frank Fishbeck a blithe cretin?
*Was Doug Hansen a blithe cretin?
I would never call them blithe cretins.
I wanted to ask you to answer yes or no to these 3 questions, but I realize now that you have already done that.
I read a very little of it once in a shop. My main, and immediate, conclusion was the author was a total, unadulterated, all-round cretin, so I didn't get on to considering the specific characters in his tale.
I don't know about anyone else, but there have been times in the middle of an epic being battered for hours by a ferocious alpine storm, that the above comments have had a certain 'ironic' truth to them :-)
... dead bodies – they are too difficult and expensive to recover – and sometimes the dying too. You could call them a macabre attraction... most climb Everest on Sherpa legs."
She isn't wrong with this statement in all honesty is she.
Hopefully, all of the current problems on Everest might resolve themselves in a way which helps to restore the mountains dignity. However, as long as commercial expeditions for the ever increasing numbers of paying 'wannabees' desperate for 'dinner party bragging rights' continue to offer their high altitude 'pimping' services, I think that is very unlikely.
OK, and thanks for your reply.
Thanks a lot for your careful response to what I wrote. I like "in the middle of an epic ... the above comments have had a certain 'ironic' truth to them". I've had some real epics, who hasn't, and wondered what on earth I was doing there. And I like your last paragraph a lot too.
Sherpas and all expedition staff are paid by the guiding company or their KTM agency.
Sherpas have insurance, paid for by the expedition operator / guiding company. Up to now this paid out approximately $10,500 for a death. This has reportedly now been increased to pay out c.$15,000, though apparently for only a little more premium it could pay out $23,000.
The $408 payment mentioned in the media is a separate payment by the government to the families of the dead Sherpas.
With around 330 foreign climbers paying $10,000 each the Ministry of Tourism has taken in around $3.3m dollars for the Everest season.
Some locals feel they deserve a greater share of this, in some way. Other than some fund for injured or killed Sherpas/staff, which it seems they now have, I'm not sure what form this share might take, or what their justification for having it is.
The Sherpas working relationship is with the guiding companies, and before them just regular expeditions. In theory Sherpas above BC are optional, always were, so that whole setup has until very recently been quite separate from 'government' aka the Ministry of Tourism, which just charges the Peak Fee / Royalty and some other charges and deposits.
In recent years obviously the Sherpas have become more critical to the whole show, have taken a much more dominant role and now it seems some locals, outside the regular expedition Sherpas and Icefall Doctors, are using the avalanche tragedy to attack the government, ostensibly to gain money and benefits for the Sherpas and other mountain staff. Or not.
In addition to the myriad other blogs and articles, I'd recommend reading those by Tim Mosedale and Grayson Schaffer - two quite different perspectives. This one is not that great but it does mention some monetary figures if that's your interest:
It also ends with a nice quote from Apa Sherpa that I think answers those harping on about how well Sherpas are paid and nobody forces them to do it. It's not really a choice:
"Apa Sherpa, the man who holds the record for most Everest summits with 21, ... says most Sherpas climb because they have no other choice….For the foreigners mountain climbing is a fun, an adventure. For the Sherpas it is an obligation...”
This is definitely the most informed and balanced piece I have read. Stay away from national papers unless you want an element of rampant journo hysteria.
thanks a lot Damo, thats what i wanted to know. So its the tour operators giving sherpas crappy insurance policies with insultingly low pay-outs who should be singled out for the harshest criticism...which leads me on to my 2p-worth, i cant believe im the only one who feels that the tour operators seem to always escape without the criticism they deserve? Were always hearing about the clients; rich, poorly experienced, westerners who have no right to be on the mountain (and quite exactly who defines the criteria for defining who does/doesnt have the right is another issue), these clients always cop the most criticism...but i cant help feeling if a commercial enterprise offers a service which is absolutely not in the best interest of the potential client, then surely it is those offering the service that should be held most accountable?
RIP to all of the brave sherpas who lost their lives; I hope and pray their families are looked after properly...
To me, it seems plenty of Everest clients are satisfied with the service they receive. Some summit, some don't, but either way reports often describe a positive experience. But let's not forget that Everest is a mountain, and a big one at that. It can't be tamed, and it can never be "conquered".
Sometimes, mountains bite back as we saw with Everest in 1996. Both clients and Sherpas have to take responsibility for the current situation. Trying to beat the mountain into submission with fixed ropes and tons of equipment is not balancing the odds in your favour when the mountain shrugs its shoulders.
I wasnt really refering to the quality of service they offer, rather that the whole commercialisation of Everest and much of the attendant issues is totally because of the tour operators; they are the ones who pay the sherpas a fraction of what the western guides get, and offer them lousy insurance policies; they are the ones who give places to unsuitable clients in order to get good business (Tim Medvets...?; theyre the ones who have until recently been leaving tons of crap up there etc etc etc ... yet it always seems to be the climbers, however unsuitable for climbing Everest they may be, that get the most criticism. To me it seems a bit like blaming the global drug problem on the users and not the dealers...
Note that this was written in 2013. His two recent pieces following this year's disaster also seem quite balanced and informative:
Since we are doing links this is as good as it gets:
Yet even Ed sort of 'bit' on Tanya... as I said on the other thread when tragedy in our game is so big it impacts the headlines we need to be wary of how we critique outsiders. It is unreasonable to expect comment pieces from journalists clueless in climbing to be perfect or to get sniffy about public black humour or satire. I for one am very glad The Guardian group gave a 2 page spread for a journalist who is well informed.
As a general comment on the commercialisation of Everest - and I'm not agreeing nor disagreeing on it - it may not be widely known that from the outset attempts to climb it were based on money and getting a return.
The RGS was particularly defensive of its ownership of anything connected to, written about, or photographed on the early expeditions there.
Capt John Noel took a huge commercial step when he bought the exclusive film rights to the 1924 expedition with the intention of turning a profit. That money contributed hugely to the trip taking place.
So making money from it isn't new.
An excellent editorial from Katie Ives at Alpinist:
Here is an interesting first-hand report of the negotiations after the accident, from one of the 'negotiators':
"... it was clear to me that the majority of workers simply wanted to just go home in respect for the dead and for their own safety. ... Personally, I never heard any rumours that threats were being made to mountain workers who wanted to climb, I never heard or saw acts of violence, and I never heard any rumours that outsider Maoist-like influences were infiltrating base camp to incite emotions. I wonder if westerners who are reporting such rumours are misunderstanding the situation from miscommunication between them and their Nepali guides. The situation was simply a mess of emotions."
That is a very good piece Damo.
I have a suggestion for the guiding companies who were employing those killed recently. Why don't you give some MORE money to the families of those killed.
Agree that Katie Ives article is worth reading. Her choice of quote from Grayson Schaffer's article linked further up really cuts to the quick of the issue IMO:
A Sherpa working above Base Camp on Everest is nearly 10 times more likely to die than a commercial fisherman—the profession the Center for Disease Control and Prevention rates as the most dangerous nonmilitary job in the US—and more then three and a half times as likely to perish than an infantryman during the first four years of the Iraq war. As a dice roll for someone paying to reach the summit, the dangers of climbing can perhaps be rationalized. But as a workplace safety statistic, 1.2 percent mortality is outrageous.
Forget all the romanticising about gentlemen mountaineers and noble Sherpas, or arguments about whether the pay reflects the risk. The bare fact is that people are dying while engaged in paid employment at a rate that would not be tolerated in the countries that the people they are working for come from.
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