I don’t know about you, but I stared at this picture for a long time. This is the summit of Mt. Everest photographed just days ago…and yes, these are climbers, hundreds of them, waiting for their big, official moment at the peak.
I didn’t realize this, but it takes an average of two months to get to the top of this mountain, not because you’re climbing the whole time, but because climbers need to spend time at base camps along the way, acclimating to the lack of oxygen. It’s a bit like diving-if you shoot up from the bottom too fast, you get the bends.
I also didn’t know that there is only one climbing season a year and that May is the month within which you position yourself to be ready to reach the apex. Once you are within shot of the top, the wait for a good weather window commences. Usually the window lasts about a week, this year it only lasted a day..thus the line (above) as adventurers from all over the world made a run for it. Ten people died making that trek this year, a record number that many blame on overcrowding and inexperience.
I always figured you had to be in excellent shape to take on this expedition, what I didn’t realize is that you need some serious money as well. The cheapest excursion will probably cost about $45,000; this includes guides, insurance, environmental impact fees, permits and taxes for Nepal etc. A ‘first class trip’ could set you back $130,000. Of course this doesn’t include airfare or the equipment you’ll need. (Specialized hiking boots alone run about $800)
All of this only serves to make the scenes above that much more discouraging. Imagine you’ve trained your body and saved your money for this amazing journey only to realize you are nothing more than a single guppy in a sea of fish-each one on their own personal quest, yet together creating just one more of life’s frustrating (and in this case dangerous and tragic) human traffic jams.