On Everest


Over the last year and a half, I have developed a weird obsession with Everest.

Not weird to my own personal standards, because I do that regularly: I pick on something, for some reason, it strikes a chord and then I give it no rest until I have read and watched and absorbed all the things I can possibly find about it.


So last year, my weird obsession was the Everest expeditions. I got a bit distracted with K2 and Nanga Parbat expeditions too.


It started innocently by reading “Into thin airby John Krakauer. Sort of randomly, because I enjoyed “Into the wild” that he wrote so I thought I’d check out his other books. I had no idea where it would take me (at over 8,000m of altitude virtually for months, that’s where). So I read this book, which is Krakauer’s personal account of the 1996 Everest disaster where 8 people died over the course of 48 hours on Mount Everest.

Then I read The Climbwhich is a different recollection of the same expedition by a professional guide. Then I read another 25 books, watched some documentaries and movies, and then generally bored people to death while talking about it (except my baby brother, bless him).



Looks like a walk in the park

First, I had no idea about how much training, equipment, and general hassle is involved in summiting an eight-thousander (that’s what climbing people call a summit over 8,000m and there are only 14, Everest being as we all know the highest one, reaching 8,849m - a number that I now know by heart).


Secondly and maybe more intriguing, I had no idea why people actually do it. To start with, it is fucking hard work: it takes at least 2 months, you eat disgusting dry food, you have to poop outside while getting serious frostbite on your arse because it’s -25c outside, and it’s also incredibly dangerous. Things that can go wrong and result in you dying on a high mountain are many: avalanches, falls, severe hypothermia, pulmonary or cerebral oedema. There is even a Wikipedia page with a list of people who died on the mountain.


Did you know that when you die in the “death zone” or pretty much anywhere above 7000m, you stay there? It’s too much work to get your body down and too dangerous most of the time; no chopper can land at that altitude. So you become a landmark, like Green Boots. There are over 200 bodies on Mount Everest, well-frozen thanks to the lovely surrounding temperature all year long. The estimate is that for every 10 that reach the summit (and successfully make it back down, which is the hardest part), one dies. Also, if you get into some trouble above 8,000m, chances are it will be difficult to help get you down. If you can't stand on your own two feet, you are unlikely to make it back down. Yet, every year, people do it.


So I have read a lot of stuff. My brother and I talked about it extensively. I know I will never climb it (it’s too fucking cold for starters, before even talking about the training I would need that I will never do), but Everest base camp hike might be in the realms of possibility. That is when we can all travel again and make plans.

I might have to trek some extra, as the shortest route and closest airport is Lukla, commonly known as the most dangerous airport in the world. And I hate flying.

Check this out:


Lukla airport
Why anyone in their right mind would want to be on a plane landing here?

So if you are bored and want to read some recollections of crazy climbs, (or if you feel the pandemic life is shit but like a friend told me about one of these books “I enjoyed it because it was a fucking struggle for them, worse than lockdown”), here are some ideas:


Books:

- Into thin air - John Krakauer (the book that got me into this rabbit hole)

- The climb - Anatoli Boukreev (same expedition, different point of view from a guide)

- The other side of Everest - Matt Dickinson (same year, a different side of the mountain, newbie point of view as the guy was here making a film)

- To Live: Fighting For Life on the Killer Mountain - Elisabeth Revol (this one isn't about Everest, but Nanga Parbat. Rest assured bad shit happens on this one too). I found it very moving.


Movies:

- Everest is a decent film based on the book by Krakauer, even though well, it’s a fiction film produced in Hollywood.

- However, the documentary of the same name was shot in 1996 on the mountain.

- And John Oliver's take on it for the giggles, but also pointing out some real problems about Everest commercial expeditions.

- A very sensational and little bit controversial show, Everest: Beyond the Limit TV show follows one expedition during the entire season.