Stop this deadly Everest free-for-all, says leading mountaineer

 

A leading British climber who reached the summit of Mount Everest for the tenth time last month has called for the number of people climbing the world's highest peak to be limited, after one of the deadliest years in its history.

Kenton Cool, 38, said he was “blown away” by photographs which emerged last week showing queues of hundreds of paying tourists snaking up towards the summit.

The climber reached the top of Everest days after a traffic jam and bad weather were blamed for the deaths of four climbers. Ten people have died on the mountain this year, the most for more than 15 years.

Guides who offer even inexperienced climbers the chance to climb Everest in return for up to £60,000 are already planning for next year’s season, the 60th since Edmund Hillary first conquered the peak.

Mr Cool said some teams on the mountain “offer things on a plate, to a certain extent - you just put one foot in front of the other.”

The climber is co-director of Dream Guides, one of around six firms who take customers up Everest. His clients have included the adventurer Sir Ranulph Feinnes, with whom Mr Cool reached the summit in 2009.

He said companies like his have a responsibility to limit attempts on Everest. “Without doubt the numbers of people didn’t help what happened this year,” he told The Independent after returning to Britain.

“I suspect we’ll get together and say, we’re the operators on the mountain, we understand how it works, and what we’re seeing is, it’s getting dangerous.”

More than 3,000 people have climbed Everest since Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach its summit in 1953. At least 220 climbers have died attempting it, about half of them in the past 20 years.

Traffic peaked this year when the weather came good on 18 May. More than 150 climbers waited in a high-altitude conga line for their chance to muscle their way to the top.

The German mountaineer Ralf Dujmovits photographed a queue of heel-to-nose climbers on the precipitous Lhotse face. He said as many as 600 people had been jostling for space on the peak.

“I had a strong feeling that not all of them would come back,” Dujmovits told reporters. “I was also filled with sadness [for] this mountain, for which I have immense respect. People nowadays treat [it] as if it was a piece of sporting apparatus, not a force of nature. It really makes my soul ache.”

Days after the photo was taken, a 33-year-old Canadian woman was among four climbers who perished in bad weather on their way down the mountain. Shriya Shah-Klorfine reportedly ignored advice to turn back, saying, “I spent a lot of money to come over here. It's my dream.”

Dujmovits has pleaded with the Nepalese government to control the number and quality of climbers. But Mr Cool doubts this will happen. “Nepal is one of the poorest nations in the world and one of their biggest incomes is from tourism.”

Climbers must apply months ahead for a permit from the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu. Prices start at about $10,000 (£6,500).

If Nepal is not inclined to limit the number of climbers, Mr Cool said, adventure companies should be. “I think we’ll move away from the big expeditions with 15 or 20 paying members to go back to smaller, less profitable groups of four or five. It’s safer, more flexible and, above all, more fun.”

Everest attempts have also become lucrative for sponsors. Mr Cool was carrying not only the British flag during his latest attempt, but also that of Samsung. The electronics firm put its name to the climber’s bid to carry an Olympic gold medal to the roof of the world, honouring a pledge made almost 90 years ago.

The climber carried a one of 21 medals awarded to a group of British climbers who failed to reach the summit in 1922. They were given the medals at 1924 Winter Olympic Games, when they promised to take one to the top of Everest.

Mr Cool, who first reached the summit in 2003, said the experience of the tenth successful attempt was not reduced despite the crowds. “The first was remarkable and something I’ll remember for a long time,” he said. “But after so much planning and preparation, the tenth was pretty overwhelming.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Foundation Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?