The deadly obsession with Everest

The peak of Earth’s highest mountain is the stuff of legend but whereas once it was only the most intrepid climbers who reached the top, now there’s a whole tourist trade. Sean Smith on the bucket-list destination to die for

Wednesday 01 December 2021 00:45
<p>Mountaineers head past the Hillary Step on the way to the summit of Everest during a high-risk attempt </p>

Mountaineers head past the Hillary Step on the way to the summit of Everest during a high-risk attempt

Everest expeditions used to be reserved for national teams of elite mountaineers but today if you have good physical fitness, a secure middle-class income and can spare three months to acclimatise, you too can make it to the roof of the world. Professionally guided, commercial expeditions will take you there for a fee of around £60,000. Unfortunately, they’re proving so popular that each May, a dangerously overcrowded Everest becomes the bucket-list destination to die for.

At 8,848 metres or 29,0129ft, Everest is the world’s highest but not hardest mountain. Approached from the south on the Nepalese controlled side of the mountain, the ascent is a gruelling hike but not a particularly difficult technical climb.

For the impoverished country of Nepal, Everest’s relative attainability has made it an invaluable natural resource estimated to be worth 10 per cent of the national economy. The Nepalese government grants record numbers of lucrative Everest permits each year and even at $11,000 a time there is no shortage of demand from the international climbing community.

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