A reader’s perspective on the commercialization of mountain climbing
There has been a lot of coverage the last couple of months (as there is every year around this time) on the dangers and commercialization of Everest treks to the summit.
Each year hundreds of climbers attempting to take advantage of clear weather find themselves lining up for hours to reach the top (or descend from the summit) risking frostbite and altitude sickness amongst other things. Some of the less tragic recent headlines included:
- ‘Traffic jam’ on Everest as two more climbers die reaching summit
- Everest Needs to Go More Commercial– Letting the private sector manage it would reduce overcrowding and improve safety. The world’s highest mountain is experiencing one of its deadliest climbing seasons on record.
- VIP line to be introduced at Everest to help wealthy climbers skip queue
- Everest climbers describe chaotic ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation near the peak, with fights breaking out amid unruly overcrowding
Something that has come through loud and clear in many articles and opinions that I came across in “researching” for this blog is that pretty much anyone with the money, time and desire can now “climb” Everest with everything that this entails. And, that is regardless of their level of preparation physical and emotional – all of which comes at a huge toll both at a human and environmental level.
My fascination with Mount Everest began years ago when I had the opportunity to hear Canadian mountaineer Sharon Wood at a work related leadership conference speak about her experiences in training and reaching the summit in 1986. She was the first North American woman to reach the Everest Summit and did so via the difficult west ridge and north face route. Not sure that it succeeded in motivating me at work as intended but I was admittedly keen to start training and get on the local hills pronto. I soon came to my senses and to grips with the realization that the only ice I wanted to dig into was a hockey rink on skates wearing 30 pounds of goalie equipment.
Okay, so it’s glaringly obvious now that the closest I will get to the physical and psychological training and demands before, during and after climbing a mountain is to hear someone else talk about it, watch a movie, Animal Kingdom at Disney or within the books that I read.
One of my favourite things about having this monthly blog commitment (besides finally finishing and uploading it) is once I’ve decided on the topic, the rereading or reading of novels that I can highlight. I have the luxury of reading when I want to rather than when I can fit it in between working and other responsibilities and there are so many new or new to me books that I don’t often think to go back and reread many that are worth rereading. Yes, I admit that this is a first world problem to have and nothing to complain about. This month two fell into that category and thanks to Erin’s January 26, 2019, blog I had a new to me novel that fit in nicely as well. All the books in this week’s blog were obviously researched and spoke to technical aspects of mountain climbing at altitude and the related environmental challenges while seamlessly incorporated it into the novels.
Trin Denise’s The Death Zone: Murder on Mount Everest (2014) deals with murder and mayhem. I’m not going to pretend that this book was perfect but I liked it and probably didn’t put it down until I finished my first read through. The main characters (Eliza and Maci) were engaging and the storyline was interesting. I thought that the author did a good job combining the revenge, romance and adventure subplots.
In her January 26, 2019 blog Erin mentions that some of the first novels that she read in her foray into lesfic were by Belle Reilly. Unfortunately none of Reilly’s novels have made it to a kindle edition and I had to track down some used paperbacks but in the end it was worth it as High Intensity (2002) based on her on-line novel was a wonderful read. Well written and researched we follow French Canadian mountaineer Veronique “Ricky” Bouchard who has signed on as a guide for an Everest trek and one of the clients thrill-seeker NYC Stock Broker Allison Peabody. Both women have personal baggage and this is as much about their personal journeys as the trek to the summit.
Andrea Bramhall’s first novel, but certainly not the last, to make it into my Kindle app was Rock and a Hard Place (2017). Although the book is not really set at Mount Everest it is the setting for the prologue when we are first introduced to one of the main characters Jayden Harris and events unfold there that are central to character development and the storyline. I love this author’s writing style and her character development and dialogue are second to none. Set mainly in the Patagonia region of Argentina, the author provides the right balance of conflict, romance and mountain and ice climbing technical information for an enjoyable sports romance reading experience.
There are fewer titles about Mount Everest and climbing other summits than I expected when I set out to write this blog. Others in my collection include Sky Croft’s Mountain Rescue: The Ascent (2013) and Mountain Rescue: On the Edge (2014)as well as Ice Fall (2019) by Stephanie Gunn which has a Sci-Fi take on mountain climbing.
As usual, I’m sure I’m missing others with this list – if you know of any please share with us all in the comments area.