I had been aware that more and more people were climbing Mount Everest these days but was absolutely stunned when Marcus Ranum had a post showing a photo of a line of people waiting to get to the summit. At first I thought it must be some kind of hoax because it seemed impossible to me that the top of the world could be just like the long lines outside theaters to see the latest superhero film. But it is apparently true and has been so for some time as this video shows.
This has led to an increasing number of deaths, not just from falls or avalanches but simply exhaustion as people wait for very long times in the sub-zero temperatures just for the chance to spend a few moments at the top.
Seeing the line reminded me of the time when I was a university student in Sri Lanka and a group of us went up Adam’s Peak, a place that is almost the highest point on the island but more popular than the highest point because the peak has religious significance for Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians who view going up as a pilgrimage. The night we did the climb (people do it at night because it is cooler since Sri Lanka is in the tropics so daytime highs can be a problem for climbing) and also because the sunrise from the summit is said to be spectacular. I say ‘said to be’ because we did not get to the summit to see it for ourselves. The final part of the trail leading to the top was so jam-packed that the sun came up while we were stuck in traffic so we gave up after being stationary for some time.
Turning back without getting to the top was no big deal for us because it was just one night’s climb and we could come back the next weekend if we wanted to, though I never did. But I can understand why people who see climbing Everest as a once in a lifetime opportunity might be tempted to wait hours to get to the summit, even when their bodies (and those around them) are telling them that they should give up and return to base.