Suicide by Arrogance

A lot has been written about the overcrowding on Everest…the garbage…the dead bodies…faulty oxygen containers. Everybody complains, but nobody acts like they have any answers. Anybody, with any basic project management skills knows how to fix this…and you gotta believe that many of these expedition leaders are some of the best project managers in the world. My guess is that they really don’t want to fix it.

If you’ve read even a little about Everest, you’re likely to know that there are only a few days each year, typically in May, that the weather calms enough to allow a finite number of people to make an attempt on Everest’s summit. This year, the Nepali government issued 381 climbing permits, a record number.

Moreover, there are only a few hours in a day, that an attempt should be made. In the book, “Into Thin Air”, Krakauer wrote that both Hall and Fischer had a mandatory turn around time of 2:00 p.m.

Finally, there are areas on the one climbing route, such as the Hilary Step, that are so narrow that only one climber at a time can either ascend or descend.

The Napali government doesn’t care. They’re happy to line their pockets with money from rich foreigners. The expedition guides need to be able to get their clients permits to climb, or they’re out of business. If they complain to loudly, they will get shut down.

Here is what I propose:

  • Sell a limited number of permits. (Obviously)
  • Each permit has a specific day that a team of climbers will be allowed above the death zone. It seems that this is currently up to the expedition leaders to agree on which team will try to summit, on what day, but as Krakauer wrote, many of the leaders disregard the agreement. This could be done by lottery or bidding system. Lottery is probably the fairest method, and wide open to corruption, but a bidding system would make more money.
  • Require a large deposit, that requires every team of climbers (including Sherpas) to bring out an amount of equipment and garbage, greater than or equal to what they take in. If they don’t, the team loses their deposit and the ability to get a permit for the next 5 years.

I’m sure, I’m just a naive, arm-chair mountaineer, but a little project management would go along way to preserving the beauty of Everest, and maybe saving a few lives. What do you think?

1 thought on “Suicide by Arrogance

  1. I agree – something needs to be done. Perhaps you should man a toll-booth at the Hilary step each May?..could also sell hand-warmers and split the proceeds w/the local gov’t…

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