SRO on Top
A classic G. George Ostrom column from 1992.
Many years ago after making a frigid, stormy climb of a high peak in Glacier Park with the late Hal Kanzler, I recall meeting three other men just as we started down. Once they were beyond earshot, Hal said, “Ostrom, do you find it at all scary…knowing there are a lot of other idiots around besides us?”
An international story coming out of Katmandu, Nepal, this week triggered that wonderful memory. And more.
Most humans could not even survive the arduous trek into the Himalayan heartland just to reach the bottom of Mount Everest, let alone have the strength, endurance, and desire to reach the top. Mount Everest soars 29,028 feet into the rarified air of the Asian sky, a mile higher than anything North or South America can offer, by far the loftiest, and certainly among the most forbidding and dangerous places in the world
When Sir Edmond Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, managed to reach the top in 1953, the world hailed them as unbelievable heroes. They had done what everyone in and out of the mountain climbing business thought was absolutely impossible. They later admitted there was a lot of luck involved but they thanked God for sparing their lives, and took their bows.
Everest is a terrible threatening, perilous mass of perpendicular rock and ice. Violent storms can occur without warning on any day of the year with temperatures dropping below zero and winds reaching hurricane force. Ice-falls and avalanches roar down its walls night and day. Everyone who goes to Nepal-Tibet to climb Everest knows there is a good chance they may not return, because so many before them have died there. Most bodies are never seen again … let alone recovered. One entire climbing team of Asian women was wiped out in their summit push.
If you have the heart, strength, time, skill and guts to try an Everest climb, you’d also better have a lot of one other thing: green stuff…MONEY. Getting the necessary equipment and team together, flying the whole shebang to Asia, then getting it transported by yak, mule, and human power to the base area, and setting up the many camps from there to the last bivouac, costs more money than most of us make in ten years.
By this time I hope I have firmly established the fact that climbing Mount Everest is one helluva horrendous, mind-boggling, risky job. I know this because for 30 years I’ve read every book I can find on the darn place, watched all the film and dreamed of one day giving it a shot of my own.
For several years now I’ve sort of had the feeling that I’d never really make it but I just couldn’t make myself accept the fact there was no chance. Now I know it for sure. I know it because last Tuesday there were so many people on the top of Mount Everest, they didn’t have any place to stand…let alone sit down and rest. The top isn’t very big and there were…count ‘em…THIRTY (30) people up there trying to hang on by their toenails.
I’m not going to Everest. It isn’t because I don’t have the money, the strength, the daring, endurance, guts, or will. Those are just minor side issues. I’m not going because I have a tendency to panic in large crowds.