Traffic Jam On Mount Everest: Whom to blame?

In the last 7 days I have had over 30 people send me the above photo primarily on facebook ( Photo Credit: Climber Nirmal Purja Taken on May 22, 2019) asking my opinion. Here is my take on this..

First let me start with a disclaimer.. I’m not an authority on the topic of High Altitude Climbing or Everest in general . My observations here are purely based on my recent attempt to climb Mt. Everest. In other words, I went to Mt. Everest. Climbed up to Camp 2 from the south side before my failed immune system stopped me from climbing any further ( more on what happened to me and how I made the call to turn around on a different post on a later date ).

Here is the video of the same photo

Traffic Jam on Everest is not new. The solutions that are proposed in the media are not new either. In August of 2013, while climbing Mt. Elbrus in Russia I asked this question to Willy Benegas ( of Benegas Brothers Expeditions who are known for doing several rescues on Everest

What to do when there are lot of people ahead of you in the line.. 

Willy’s response:  Go around them or don’t go that day at all.  

The challenge with this approach is; most expeditions companies don’t have the apparatus to spend an extra night in camp4.  By apparatus I mean more oxygen, food etc.  Also the longer one stays in higher camps the more is the energy loss. 

My friend and our expedition lead Clayton Matthews summited early morning on May 16th . While he didn’t encounter many people beyond Camp 4, he shifted to the opposite side of the fixed-line and used his Ice Axe to move up and secure himself. Not many have the surplus energy to cross over the fixed line at that altitude.  Also returning back to Camp 4 is also not an option as exhaustion could impede another attempt. 

Stop Those Who Don’t Deserve..

The common solution proposed in the media is to stop all those climbers from attempting who have not summited a 8000m peak prior to showing up on Everest.  

PROS:  This will restrict the newbies and novice climbers and certainly reduce the traffic and time lags on the mountain. 

CONS:  Everest is a major contributor to the local economy.  For every $11,000 paid to Nepal Govt for a permit a climbing sherpa makes anywhere between $7000 ~$10,000 with salary & summit bonus.   A majority of the Sherpa’s are bound to go unemployed if permits are restricted.  

Charge More As They Don’t Deserve

Why not charge more as this will in some way restrict those climbers who unsure about their own success

PROS:   Again this may work but in my personal opinion aspiring climbers will do anything to come up with an additional $5k or $10k to fulfill their dream. In the scheme of things the price increase is a small thing.

CONS:  Increase in permit fee will force the low cost and budget operators to cut further costs, it could mean less salary and perks to Sherpas & Cooks which is again counterproductive. 

A Change Is Coming..

 Nepal Govt has already indicated that rules are going to change.   I support  the idea of a successful 8000m summit per-requisite. Here is my message to the Under Secretary of Nepal’s Tourism Ministry suggesting the same.  If this rule comes into play, I’ll be automatically disqualified. Yet I support the change. 

Here are some more write ups on this topic, you may consider reading.

Everest is for everyone. The crowds will keep increasing. What do you think should be the fix to this growing concern? Go ahead and leave a comment.