Posts Tagged ‘Shah-Klorfine’

Confessions of a Modern Day Everest Climber

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Some of you may have heard the recent news of the Canadian woman who died on Everest, Shriya Shah-Klorfine. If not you can read about it here; she died while descending from the top after taking 22 hours to reach the summit, on a day where there was a lot of people going up and traffic was a problem.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on this, but not on the immediate issues that you may hear about from others. I could talk about the traffic that is ever present on Everest during the most popular climbing season, and how some of those people maybe should not be there. I could talk about how it’s important to have a pre-determined turn-around time in mind (that was decided upon at lower elevations where critical thought is possible), and stick to it, thereby not letting oneself get into a situation where 22 hours go by before reaching the summit. I could talk about the effects of being above 8000m for too long, or how near impossible it is to rescue someone from high on Everest.

But rather than look at those points, I wanted to delve a little deeper. Maybe I can shine some light on the thoughts that might be going through someone’s head on an expedition like this. I remember when I was on Everest in 2010, the atmosphere at base camp and of other climbers was different than any other mountain I had ever been on. People (mainly other “clients” that had paid to be there, mainly on other teams) were a bit less social, a bit less friendly. They were not like most mountaineers I had met in the past, that have been free spirited, easy going, open minded. Somehow, things were a little different. People seemed to be very focused on themselves and on their trip to the top.

One of the things I love about mountaineering is that, in general, it’s not a competitive sport (perhaps excluding those people that establish new routes). I can summit with my team and so can you, we give each other tips, and we compare stories about it in the tent later. That camaraderie very much appeals to me, as in true competitive sports I have sometimes let the competitiveness get in the way of the fun.

But this atmosphere at Everest was almost that, a competitive one. I don’t know if I dare say that it was so competitive that people were thinking “If I summit and you don’t, it’s better than if we both summit”. In a way a ridiculous notion, but I felt it around me. More than that, I think some of that thought rubbed off on me as well (or maybe I have to admit that I brought it with me?) I am not sure why, but unlike before I was very much feeling that I had something to prove, that I wanted and deserved the summit as much as, if not more than, anyone else.

Luckily, by the time it came to go for the summit, I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to climb Everest; I just wanted to go home. But I had no excuse, so I went along as far as I could, waiting for an excuse to come up. Next thing I know I was at the summit.

But what about the people that don’t lose that drive to get to the top? What about people like Shriya, who give it all they have to get to the top? Because they also have something to prove. They have to prove that they have a right to be there. They have to prove that they have what it takes to not be an also ran. Of the hundreds of people who have a permit to climb Everest, roughly a quarter of them will summit. Do I have what it takes to be one of them?

Wrong or right, those thought are present in the modern day Everest climber. Luckily, most people realize when they are in too deep and turn around. However, there will always be those that give it a little too much. There are fatalities on Everest every year, expect nothing diffrent without drastic changes in the way expeditions are run.

As was mentioned in the article, there will be another rush of people to the summit this weekend. Pray things will be different, but expect more of the same.