This seems a perfect moment to point out the less-told side of Reinhold Messner's incredible feat. Not only is he the only one who summited Everest solo and without oxygen, but he also did it from the more difficult Chinese side AND in August. One of the few truly superhuman feats in human history, Messner was the only soul on the whole damn mountain.
But there's a certain logic to the madness. Large teams mean large, sluggish logistics on foot, it takes 2-3 weeks of moving supplies up towards higher and higher base camps, just to get a shot to summit from the South Col, bottlenecked in a high-altitude traffic jam.
Alone and with no oxygen to carry, Messner could move light and fast, so he was up and down the mountain in 3 days. His odds for 3 consecutive days in August were just as good than 35 consecutive days in Spring.
Check out Mister Messners Wikipedia page, the man is a living legend for several climbing reasons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhold_Messner
Because they're rich egotists?
Whenever I get pissed off about how the rich and worldly amuse themselves climbing a Holy Mountain in search of vainglory, I always have to remind myself that the mountain itself doesn't care.
They will die, it will stand unchanged. If it turns out the Buddhists are right, the interlopers will be reincarnated as something unpleasant, which satisfies schadenfreude. If not, oh well.
Although the exact mechanics of weather on Everest is interesting, I'd gotten the general gist of things (the very short window of opportunity for climbers, and the uncertainty that even that would stay open) from Krakauer's Into Thin Air. One of the guides who died was motivated to get one of his clients to the top at all costs because the guy had gone on a previous expedition and had to turn around a few hundred yards from the summit.
I'd rather climb Rum Doodle.
A better question is why does anyone climb Everest at all anymore? More than 700 people have reached the peak, and the plan this season was to make one route to the top, and then a second route down from the top, to maximize the numbers of people able to get to the top. Oh for Christ's sake, why not just put two escalators up there? Last time I checked, it cost a minimum of 60,000 dollars to try to get to the top, and although reaching the summit is never guaranteed, I'm certain that the Sherpas would drag your rich ass to the top for that much money. I know that the climbing industry has become huge business in Nepal, but maybe this year's tragedy will make them re-think basing their economy on the whims of rich idiots that may get many more Sherpas injured or killed in the pursuit of a goal line that has already been crossed hundreds of times. Maybe it's time to leave the mountain alone.
I want to be first to scale Amy Yip without the use of supplemental oxygen.
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