Adrian Ballinger had not expected that a dispute would arise over the cutting of lines around the world.
The founder of the US company Alpenglow Expeditions, a commercial climbing company, set off in 2011 with his team on the way to the Mount Everest summit. Ballinger knew that the bottleneck on the south Nepalese side of the mountain could delay his group for hours. He also knew that his climbers and guides were strong and experienced.
The Alpenglow team decided to deviate from the fixed ropes. They lined the queue by 30 yards, shackled and used their ice axes to keep climbing.
As Ballinger's group moved farther and farther away from the crowd, he heard an angry voice ring out: "No cutting is allowed!" "
" We're on Mount Everest and here's someone I think is inexperienced, "Ballinger told Business Insider." They thought you should not leave the fixed ropes. "
Ballinger, who has since relocated all his Everest expeditions On the Tibetan side of the north side of the mountain, eight years later, during the 2019 season, the same cramped conditions and general experience deficits continued after the mountain eleven this year
Business Insider Speaked to Eleven Owners and Representatives of Commercial Climbing Companies and Four Climbing Professionals Used for issues related to the south side of Everest in Nepal, as the Tibetan side of the mountain is known for its rigorous licensing system Ministry of Tourism did not respond to Business Insider's multiple requests for comment.
According to Business Insider sources in the climbing industry, safety on Everest is not only threatened by the climbing and green adventurers increasingly entering the highest mountain in the worldMany have criticized the Nepalese government for being lazy when it comes to withholding permits from unqualified operators and implementing better safety standards. As of 2018, Nepal was one of the poorest countries in the world, with per capita GDP of $ 918.
However, according to CNN, death has always been lurking on Everest, where 200 people have died on its slopes since 1992. And avoidable deaths on the mountain have never been able to freeze the influx of tourist money – the numbers continue to increase each year. While some companies offer luxury expeditions for up to $ 130,000, the commercial climbing companies that talked to Business Insider estimated between $ 45,000 and $ 100,000. Nepal charges US $ 11,000 per person for climbing permits, and Bloomberg reported that it received $ 643 million from tourism in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
For many commercial operators, the possibility of another avoidable mass casualty event on Everest is as big as the mountain.
"Here we have seen most deaths"
On May 23, climber Nirmal Purja tweeted a frightening image of a crowd on Everest's Hillary Step near the summit. The subsequent coverage of the photo and the increase in deaths indicated that this year's death toll was disproportionately high.
The mountain has averaged six deaths per year over the last 20 years, the BBC reported.
Experienced climbers and commercial operators said other factors were in play this season. For example, 2019 had particularly "unusual" weather conditions, said Caroline Gliech, a professional ski mountaineer who completed her first Everest summit this year.
On the south side of the mountain there are usually eight to ten days optimal summit conditions. This year, a hurricane delayed the arrival of the summit, and an early beam at the top of the mountain caused a shortened "weather window" of only three days.
And the weather was not the only problem.
"This year's repair of ropes was a bit strange in that the ropes were repaired late in the season," said Mike Hamill, founder of the US climbing firm Climbing the Seven Summits, to Business Insider.
The short weather window, delays in preparing the mountain for climbers and the record number of 381 permits issued to foreign climbers explain this year's crowded slopes.
"A limited number of days, too many people, too many inexperienced people, inadequate support – all these things came together and here we have seen the most deaths," said the seasoned mountaineer and Everest expert Alan Arnette, who studies The problem of overcrowding for years, said Business Insider.
Bullying on the Mountain
Due to the popularity of Everest, a new group of local companies has settled down to profit from the growing market. Many offer significantly lower prices than foreign-based companies, according to various Everest climbers and operators.
Arnette estimates that the majority of Everest's companies have switched from expensive foreign to cheap local businesses. He suspects that more Indian citizens climbing the mountain are fueling some of the popularity of local businesses. The Indians overtook US citizens as the largest group of climbers that had permission to climb Everest this year.
Read more : At least 11 people died on Mount Everest last week. However, it is only the 10th deadliest mountain in the Himalayas.
Domestic and foreign operators tell business insiders that not all Kathmandu-based companies are low in every respect. But accusations of illegal and unethical behavior are nothing new.
In 2018, a number of Nepalese companies are said to have participated in an insurance fraud program where certain operators had forced their sick or sometimes drugged customers to evacuate various mountains in an expensive helicopter. The accused companies were not just Everest climbers, but also allegedly trekking outfits and other tourist activities.
Outside reported that the alleged target of the fraudsters was to get customers to go to the hospital for a variety of expensive tests. According to the Guardian, the Nepalese authorities stated that the program resulted in 1,600 unnecessary helicopter evacuations and cost insurers $ 4 million.
But sources say even companies that are not involved in fraudulent systems are known to cut corners and compete with unqualified climbers.
"People seem to say," Okay, just pay some money and let's climb Everest, "Lakpa Sherpa, owner of Pioneer Adventures in Nepal, told Business Insider.
Very often they are from the mountain They do not make it to the summit. & # 39;
Sources say the novices on Mount Everest are easy to spot.
"You may not want to take your client to the summit if you take him Short rappelling to store one, "described Ryan Waters, founder of the US Mountain Professionals, a technique that will guide a rider down a customer to lead them to a mountain." Or they do not really know How to put your crampons on. "
Others are familiar faces: Suze Kelly, general manager of New Zealand climbing company Adventure Consultants, said her company has green climbers rejects the search for an Everest adventure and advises them to return once they have gained more climbing experience.
"They just want to climb Mount Everest," Kelly told Business Insider. "Then they go to another operator who does not check their customers, and then we see them on Mount Everest, very often they are sorted out from the mountain themselves, they can not make it to the summit."
For some of these unprepared climbers, the dream of climbing Everest can quickly become a nightmare.
Becky Rippel, a longtime travel professional who runs frenzy with her husband Tim Peak Freaks, was stationed in base camp when such a nightmare occurred in 2012. black spot "when it comes to communication, but her team has been incognito for quite some time.
Rippel said she knew" something is wrong. "
Something was wrong, but everyone on the Peak Freaks team was fine Well over the base camp, there was a traffic jam after inexperienced Indian-Canadian climber Shriya Shah-Klorfine had died after the summit storm, Rippel said today Peak Freaks no longer offer Everest climbing expeditions as it is a dangerous overcrowding Rise of inexperienced drivers and alleged flaws in Nepal came as a result of the 2014 avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas.
"The theft of oxygen was this year a problem "
The overcrowding may be a focus of coverage of this year's deaths, but experts and operators of Everest say too many mens They have been clogging the mountain for years. And this year, the crowd seemed to be reviving a problem plaguing early commercial Everest expeditions: stolen oxygen.
"The theft of oxygen was a problem this year," said Furtenbach Adventures founder Lukas Furtenbach to Business Insider. "One operator on the Nepalese side has lost something like 50 oxygen cylinders, and if 50 oxygen cylinders are stolen during a summit course, at least 10 to 15 people are at risk."
It is not known who steals oxygen cylinders in the mountains, although some operators are better prepared for unforeseen circumstances such as lack of oxygen.
Gordon Janow, program director of climbing firm Alpine Ascents, told Business Insider that the high price of certain expeditions helps climbers gain access to oxygen tanks that may not be in the warehouses of cheaper companies.
"If [companies] are cheaper, it's the sacrifice of something," he added.
One of the biggest benefits sometimes associated with Everest's costly commercial expeditions are other security equipment, such as weather forecasting technologies, said Mark Horrell, blogger and author of "Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest." Horrell booked his Everest promotion at Altitude Junkies after using the company for other expeditions.
Safety is one of the reasons why mountaineer Gliech decided to hold a summit with Ballinger, who was responsible for communicating with medical personnel in the US. In an emergency, Gliech said she wanted to make sure her family was notified of her whereabouts.
A mountain to climb
Despite the rise in Everest interest and the opportunity to earn more money from customers, some companies are limiting The number of climbers continues to take them on expeditions. Some say it's just a good deal.
Alpine Ascents only allowed 12 climbers to travel to Everest, Janow told Business Insider. According to Subin Thakuri, owner of Utmost Adventures in Nepal, it is often safest to "take on" returning customers or climbers recommended by our friends or previous clients of the climbing community. "
Furtenbach said his business is based on a high peak rate of between 90 and 100%, which means that he only takes small groups of well-trained climbers with him. Furthbach's firm had only entered Everest for a few years, and said its firm had a 100% success rate in 2018 and 2019.
According to Ballinger, Rippel and Russell Brice, a longtime Everest mountaineer and founder of Himalayan expeditions, Nepal has little incentive to change its rules around Everest.
Everest is one of the country's major money-makers, and mass losses on the mountain never seem to shake tourism. According to guidelines, media coverage of disasters and deaths often has the opposite effect.
Proposals such as granting permits only for "experienced" climbers could backfell, according to Janow, as a single climber could easily climb Mount Kilimanjaro or other peaks, but may not have specific training for Everest.
Another way to prevent overcrowding could be to open the mountain in the fall, Janov said. In the past, climbers climbed in the spring due to better weather conditions, but technological advances in weather forecasting could make peak climbing in the fall more feasible. Janow admits, however, that the infrastructure that would allow a summit in other seasons, is currently absent.
According to Brice, the change may have come at least partially from the climbers themselves.
He said sponsors and the general public should stop "celebrating people who have no business," as they pose a danger to themselves and others.
The climbers who have spoken with Business Insider are largely in agreement that a sober self-assessment of Everest hopefuls is an important step in reducing the overcrowding of the mountain.
Gliech warns Western climbers not to explain to local communities how to proceed. Instead, she encourages climbers to spend more time self-assessing and weighing the risks of mountaineering against potential benefits.
Inviting climbers to self-assessment could not be an easy task either. Dr. Shaunna Burke, a sports psychologist who climbed Everest in 2005, told Business Insider that in general, elite mountaineers appreciated the ascension process. They enjoyed the complex decision making and problem solving and the need to stay through difficulties.
She said inexperienced climbers such as elite mountaineers are attracted to the elements of adventure and competition that are inherent in the activity, the cultural experience of traveling abroad, and the ability to build strong relationships with teammates.
But amateurs who rush to Everest too fast lack a "forgotten key to success": intense mental and physical preparation.
"People put their trust in a commercial outfitter and say," Well, if something goes wrong, they'll get me out of trouble, "rather than taking responsibility for themselves before they go to the mountain and sit down the hard work that is required, "said Burke.
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