• Ester Schneiderova

The Monetization of Mt. Everest



Nestled in the Himalayas between Nepal and Tibet and at 8,849 meters, Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain. This great height beckons mountaineers all over the world who aspire to summit Mt. Everest. Seeing a market, touring companies that specialize in climbing Mt. Everest have sprouted up in the area over the last few decades. Google “Mt. Everest tours,” and over one million results appear. But, this abundance of opportunities to climb Mt. Everest means that increasingly often, inexperienced climbers attempt the ascent each year.

In 1953, New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary and his Tibetan guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to definitively reach the summit. After their success, climbing the mountain became a more popular goal.

Climbing the mountain is extremely dangerous, according to National Geographic “the biggest danger is altitude” because even experienced climbers are often not acclimated to the height. The hike is so dangerous that “the area above 8,000 meteres…is called the ‘death zone.’” If climbers spend too much time in “the ‘death zone,’” they can develop altitude sickness and even brain swelling,” which can lead to death (“Mount Everest”).

Mt. Everest was not always open to the public. As reported by Zachary Crockett of The Hustle, up until the 1980s the Nepali and Tibetan government limited access “to one Everest permit per season.” However, in the 1990s, “climbers like Rob Hall and Scott Fischer convinced Nepalese officials to expand foreing access.” Both Hall and Fischer would eventually die in the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster after summiting the mountain with their respective touring companies ( John Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air chronicles “the death of eight climbers” and created even more demand to climb the mountain (Crockett).

By the early 2000s, the number of climbers skyrocketed to over 500 per year. And, while “from 1953 to 1999 there were 1,159 total summits,” from 2000 to 2020 “there [were] 8,986,” a number simply represents the number of climbers who succeeded. Furthermore, despite an outbreak at the Everest base camp and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Binaj Gurubacharya of AP News, “408 foreign climbers were issued to climb Everest this [2021] season, aided by hundred Sherpas and support staff.”

This high traffic has changed the condition of Everest. The once mysterious mountain is now covered in trash as “climbers often discard unwanted items.” In addition to pollution, corpses of failed attempted ascents also litter the mountain because it is “impossible to retrieve” dead bodies (“Mount Everest”).

In 2019, the death toll reached a peak. According to Kami Rita Sherpa, a guide who as of 2019 held the record for most Everest ascents at 24 total, it was not the number of people attempting the climb but the number of inexperienced climbers that led to this high toll.

According to Pradeep Bashyal of BBC News, Kami “blames tour companies for underestimating the risks [of climbing Everest] to novice climbers” and states that the reason people are dying is the “‘pressure on young climbers by some companies describing Everest as easy.’”

Writer and mountaineer Alan Arnette agrees, saying, “Climbers need to wake up and understand that climbing a big peak…is dangerous’” (Bashyal).

Overall, while Mount Everest is a crucial source of income for both Nepal and Tibet, many professional mountaineers agree that the mountain would benefit from less climbers.