[OPINIONS★★] NEPAL’S EARTHQUAKE AND WHY MOUNT EVEREST SHOULD BE CLOSED – PERMANENTLY
(P1) Now that Mount Everest has been swept by a fatal avalanche following Nepal’s disastrous earthquake, the arguments of those who wonder how the mountain can handle hundreds of climbs per year are thrown into the spotlight. The mountain is crowded, dirty, tense and, in the past two years, has killed more people than ever before.
(P2) “The death of 12 people on Mount Everest by avalanche is a reminder that, at 8,848 metres, the mountain should represent the ultimate challenge for climbers and adventurers,” the Telegraph wrote after another devastating avalanche — last year. “But in recent years, mountaineers have complained about the over-commercialisation of the Everest ascent, likening the climbing path to a ‘traffic jam.’ ”
(P3) So: What are the problems with the world’s highest peak?
(P4) 1. It’s the “McDonald’s” of mountain climbing.
(P5) People who are the first to arrive at a party often complain about those that come later. But those new to Everest aren’t just latecomers. They’re often less experienced — and less able to handle themselves in dangerous situations.
(P6) “It isn’t a wilderness experience — it’s a McDonald’s experience,” Graham Hoyland, the author of “The Last Hours on Everest,” about the doomed 1924 ascent by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, told the BBC in 2013.
(P7) “Many recent deaths on Everest have been blamed on a dangerous lack of experience” Mark Jenkins wrote in National Geographic in 2013. “Without enough training at high altitude, some climbers are unable to judge their own stamina and don’t know when to turn around and call it quits.”
(P8) “Only half the people here have the experience to climb this mountain,” one Sherpa told Jenkins. “The half without experience are the most likely to die.”
(P9) 2. It’s filthy. Like, really filthy.
(P10) The environmental disaster at Everest was summed up in a Washington Post story with a memorable headline: “Decades of human waste have made Mount Everest a ‘fecal time bomb.’ ” And the more people climb the mountain and feel the call of nature, the worse the fecal time bomb gets.
(P11) “Along the way, people have left oxygen canisters, broken climbing equipment, trash, human waste and even dead bodies in their wake, transforming the once pristine peak,” Peter Holley wrote.
(P12) 3. The racial politics are appalling.
(P13) Many people reach the summit of Everest — many rich people, given that the price of climbing is tens of thousands of dollars. But they’re helped every step of the way by Sherpas, members of a Nepalese ethnic group that does a lot of the hard work, but isn’t necessarily rewarded for it. This became apparent after 16 Sherpas died in an avalanche last year.
(P14) “The mountains are a death trap,” Norbu Tshering, a 50-year-old Sherpa and mountain guide told the Associated Press at the time. “But we have no other work, and most of our people take up this profession, which has now become a tradition for all of us.”
(P15) The tradition doesn’t bring equal rewards — or acclaim. After all, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who summited with Hillary, wasn’t knighted for his effort.
(P16) 4. Avalanches are a leading cause of death on Everest — and climate change may be making them worse.
(P17) After last year’s avalanche, the Atlantic published a breakdown of deaths on the mountain, finding that avalanches are the leading cause of death among Sherpas and the second-leading cause of death among other climbers. Global warming may be making avalanches worse.
(P18) As temperatures around the world heat up, even the highest place on Earth is not immune.
(P19) “If it wasn’t the tallest mountain in the world, you would never put yourself on a glacier this active,” guide Adrian Ballinger told the Associated Press.
(P20) Of course, despite these worthy arguments against Everest, the mountain isn’t going anywhere. “There will always be people who want to climb the world’s tallest peak,” Jenkins wrote in National Geographic.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- The article mentions that many of the rich climbers on Mount Everest lack the necessary experience to climb the world’s tallest mountain. Why is experience important?
- If Mount Everest were closed to climbers, for some period of time or forever, what would the effect on the Sherpas be?
- What does Graham Hoyland mean when he calls climbing Everest a “McDonald’s experience”?
- The article mentions that Mount Everest has become “really dirty.” What effects do the presence of so many climbers have on the environment of the mountain?
Expressions to Practice
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- To call it quits
- Traffic jam
- Time bomb
- Death trap
- Racial politics