When I saw news of the recent spate of deaths on Mt Everest, I read up on them, and the pages about the traffic jams on Everest were really sobering.

It’s become a big business to help people summit Everest, so they can brag about it at cocktail parties, or whatever.

I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air [wc] when it came out, and was duly amazed. Since it was written in 1997, Everest has been turning into a real tourist trap. That line of people on the spine of the world have a long fall to certain death on either side of them, and they’re dizzy, anoxic, and exhausted. It doesn’t take a lot of bad weather to make that exposed ridge a death-trap.

But, as they say in The Twilight Zone “Do you want to see something really scary?”

Tying 3 ladders together with poly rope does not cut it. Obviously, the sherpa guide knows what he’s doing but I’d just turn right around when they pulled out the poly rope. Nope, nope, nope, nopeitty ope!

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There’s a 3D virtual reality game for the HTC Vive headset, which is a “climb Mt Everest” experience. Even though the resolution on the 3D headset has a bit of pixellation, it was a truly amazing thing to be able to stand in a comfortable living room with a shag carpet floor, and be terrified. (spoiler: the ladder is in the game but it’s not tied together with poly rope). When Anna put the goggles on, she looked around and immediately flattened on her tummy on the floor for safety. The illusion is that good. When I grabbed her by the back of her pants and hauled her forward toward the edge, she punched me with a diamond-hard fist.

I do not understand the concept of “adrenaline junky” and I don’t think it’s a real thing. But there are people who seem to enjoy sports/events where they are risking their lives against failure. I suppose it must focus one’s concentration admirably. My friend Michael “pelican” H. was one of the early innovators in hang gliding, and he says that, of the group he started with, he’s the only survivor. That’s a bit sobering. I’d be happy to play Extreme Hang Gliding Dodge Pterodactyls Adventure with a 3D VR headset on but it doesn’t seem worth it to risk making a dirt angel from an altitude. On the other hand, it’s probably a fairly quick death, once you’ve done the lengthy falling part. The deaths described on Mt Everest do not sound quick or pleasant.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I do not understand the concept of “adrenaline junky” and I don’t think it’s a real thing

    It’s a real thing. I stopped bungie jumping because I did a jump and got nothing from it – I was jumped out, and height and drops didn’t do it for me any more. I knew at that point that if I didn’t stop, I’d head down the rabbit hole of BASE or wingsuits or whatever. I stuck to paragliding and speedflying, which seemed safer, until that bit me, hard, a couple of years ago. Among the many, many people I know who do it, a grand total of one hasn’t spent time in hospital as a result. Most of them still do it. The ones who don’t are the ones who are too broken or dead, or who seriously re-evaluated their priorities. I’m going to be the second one. But it’s definitely a thing.

  2. johnson catman says

    I have a fear of heights, and I get vertigo looking over the edge of a big drop, be it a building or natural formation. When I played Watch Dogs 2, there is a task to tag the Golden Gate Bridge with billboard material. Watch Dogs 2 is not photo-realistic, but it is very detailed, and I was very uneasy climbing the bridge and looking over the edges. And I don’t even have VR!

  3. Sunday Afternoon says

    Agreeing with #1, sonofrojblake, it’s a real thing.

    As someone who was prevented from being a military pilot due to medical reasons, I had to have something else to get my fix of hand/eye coordination and competition. Turned out that was bicycle racing for me. No-one I know who has raced competitively for more than a couple of years doesn’t have at least one bone fracture as a result of a crash. Personally, I’ve lost count.

    I’m a recreational cyclist these days, but still relish the challenge of a 30+ mph twisty, technical descent.

  4. xohjoh2n says

    As I understand it, most hang gliding deaths are not so much falls from height, but stuffing up the flare or failing to account for that tree or power line (or getting blown into same by an unexpected gust). So death isn’t *necessarily* quick…

  5. John Morales says

    Yeah, when I saw that story (and that photo!) it became evident that the romance and glamour of the climb is a historic thing. Now, all it takes is $$$ and to not be too decrepit. And to wait in queue, apparently.

    (And yes, the thought of the equipment and supplies that the pioneers had in comparison was unavoidable)

  6. ridana says

    It looked to me like they did a secure job of tying the ladders together, but even if it failed midway, he had two more ropes on him, so while it would’ve been frightening, he wouldn’t fall to his death. What looked most insecure to me was the snow ledge they propped the ladder on. They were lucky that didn’t collapse.

    I kept wondering how they got some of those shots though…

  7. StevoR says

    Have you ever read any of Joe Simpsons* books – the mountaineer with the incredible survival story from ‘Touching the Void’?* He’s written quite a few including some on the modern (& historic) situation on Everest /Chomolungma (This Game of Ghosts?) which make very interesting and thought-provoking reading albeit quite technical in terminology at times.I’d recommend them if you are at all interested here. Gooduman being too I think & he’s also done soem environmental activism which he notes in his books.

    * See wikibasics :

  8. dangerousbeans says

    Oh well, another in the long list of things I won’t do because the queue is too long :P

  9. voyager says

    If it all goes sideways and you die on Everest, you stay on Everest. There are more than 200 bodies up there. That fact alone would dissuade me.

    I do get the concept of conquering fear, though. And a good adrenaline rush is fun once in a while. Thankfully, I can get that in much safer ways, like being on stage or going to the beach during a big storm. That’s as close to possible death as I’m willing to get, unless you count driving through Toronto.

  10. says

    It looked to me like they did a secure job of tying the ladders together, but even if it failed midway, he had two more ropes on him, so while it would’ve been frightening, he wouldn’t fall to his death.

    I’ve seen too many movies where someone is hanging on a rope and they have to cut the rope in order to save the others, to want to do that either.

    [That sort of trolley car scenario has always seemed absurd to me, but it’s so popular in movies. Heck, they even did it in Endgame a few weeks ago…]

  11. xohjoh2n says

    I guess it saves on supplied though – now all they need to take up with them are the fava beans and chianti.

  12. johnson catman says

    Marcus @11:

    Heck, they even did it in Endgame a few weeks ago…

    Oh, man! How about a spoiler alert!!! ( ;-P j/k, couldn’t care less)

  13. bmiller says

    Avid, verging on obsessive recreational cyclist. NOT an adrenaline junky and am quite poor when it comes to hand-eye coordination. But…even so, cycling is an inherently dangerous sport, and I badly broke my collar bone about two years ago. Not fun at age 55! :) (Thought everything was fine and healed, but the damn shoulder has been aching like a MFer the last two weeks. For no reason).

    Anyway…not an adrenaline junky, and since the crash my innate caution has been even more present. But I am still obsessing about road riding!

  14. Curt Sampson says

    I kept wondering how they got some of those shots though…

    Drones. They’ve revolutionised photography.

  15. says

    I just watched John Oliver’s video about this topic, which got me thinking about it once again.

    Mount Everest is known in Nepali as “Sagarmatha” and in Tibetan as “Chomolungma.” Years ago, back when I still went to school, my geography teacher once said, “That mountain you all know by the name “Everest,” well, in the geography exam you will have to call it “Chomolungma” instead if you want your answer to be counted as correct.”

    In geography lessons we got taught the names of various famous geographical locations in local languages. For example, for the Ayers Rock we had to learn the name “Uluru.” And so on. The idea being that names in local languages ought to take precedence over the names white men gave to some landmark.

    I just realized that I have never heard English-speaking people using the name “Chomolungma” or “Sagarmatha.” English speakers just always call this mountain “Everest.” But they shouldn’t. People have lived in this area for a very long time, there’s no reason why some white dudes who came there relatively recently should have a right to name geographical landmarks. When local names already exist in some language, arrogant white guys might as well use them rather than rename everything after themselves.

    It’s the same arrogance that results in rich white people bragging about having successfully climbed this mountain when in reality it’s sherpas who got them there.

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