As of today, eleven people have died climbing Everest in 2019, making this one of the deadliest climbing seasons in Everest’s history. Previously, a high number of deaths in one season was because of weather or onetime incidents, but the deaths this season are being associated with overcrowding, a lack of strict regulations and management by Nepalese authorities, and the increase of inexperienced climbers.
You may have seen an image on the news showing Everest climbers lined up like a long colorful centipede along the ridge of the mountain, back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I’m an “outdoorsy” person (as non-outdoorsy people tend to call us), and I love to hike and camp and backpack, but this kind of feat, on this kind of crowded terrain, has never been on my personal To Do List.
A friend of mine, Lisa, climbed Kilimanjaro last year. She trained for that hike for many months, but she ended up stopping her climb just shy of the peak because of breathing difficulties. She had medical oversight and took all the necessary precautions; she was more than fine with not making it to the top. After stopping, she stayed in place, waiting for her climbing companions to descend from the peak.
It was before dawn. When Lisa saw her first climbing buddy making her way back from the peak, she expected to witness great excitement. Her friend took another careful step down the icy slope and looked up into Lisa’s headlamp. “This sucks!” she winced, “All these people are throwing up, my body is hurting all over, and it’s f—ing freezing!” Not exactly what Lisa expected to hear. They had a good laugh about it later.
This brings me to DTBF’s featured story from Alison Levine titled “On the Edge”. It’s a perfect time to highlight her story again.
Alison Levine wrote a New York Times bestselling book about her own experience climbing Everest and has since become a sought-after keynote speaker. This includes her popular TED Talk on leading teams in extreme environments.
After the latest Everest deaths this past weekend, Alison posted a note on LinkedIn, which she permitted for me to share here:
The headlines this week about the crowds and deaths on #Everest are frightening to be sure.
Nine years ago TODAY I stood on the summit of that mountain. There were not many people climbing that day because the weather was terrible and visibility was poor. But in less than ideal conditions, we made it.
Was it one of the greatest days of my life? NO!
What was great was coming back to the people who are important to me.
For those of you who love “all things Everest” — I OF COURSE share your passion! But please remember that standing on top of a mountain does not change the world.
*WANNA KNOW WHAT DOES CHANGE THE WORLD?*
1. Raising kind, compassionate children who will contribute to their communities (and you don’t have to have your own kids to be part of this — you can do this by being a good aunt/uncle/brother/sister/grandparent/godparent/step-parent/mentor/friend, etc).
3. Being there when people need you! A few kind words to someone who is hurting/struggling can literally change their life.
Not everyone can climb Everest. But everyone can be a part of one of the above, and that has much more impact than standing on the top of a mountain.
My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones on the mountain this season. May their souls rest in peace.
Read Alison’s story, “Over the Edge.”