Rising slightly more than 29,000 feet into impossibly thin air, the peak of Mt. Everest quite simply has too little oxygen to sustain life for more than very short time, even for climbers who use supplemental oxygen bottles.
That’s a problem when 250-300 climbers are blocking the path down, still trying to complete their own ascent. Several climbers, having summited, died this past week of exhaustion, oxygen deprivation and altitude sickness, waiting to be able to come down.
There isn’t a wide path to the summit, where people can pass each other coming and going. There’s one narrow, icy, slippery, rocky, nearly impassably steep path.
People who die up there pretty much stay put, becoming part of the frozen landscape because it’s too hard to get their bodies down.
I simply don’t get the climbing Everest mania. I begin to feel queasy and dizzy as low as 6000 feet or so, which I discovered many years ago when Jerry and I were in Switzerland and took a chair lift in the summer to a special Alpine dining spot that had been recommended as having a stunning view. I got off the chair lift, and that was the end of any prospect of eating for me. I couldn’t wait to go back down, where I recovered quickly.
Take a gander at this pic of climbers lined up trying to reach the top, and tell me if you’d go get in that line.