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15 October 2011

tradepaperback published by Hyperion, copyrighted in 2008, but may have been published later. Reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

The subtitle for this book is “The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed,” and it’s accurate. between the damage being done to the area by literally tens of thousands of people coming and going every climbing season, the theft of climbing gear that risks their lives, the companies, some of which seem to be incompetent and others plain greedy, and the dangers of dealing with the Chinese Government, it’s no surprise to anyone reading this book that climbing Everest isn’t what it used to be.
The main difference is that climbing Everest has gone from being a sport for amateurs who did it to be the first and/or best, to being something done to make money. A high proportion of the climbers are now there so they can go home with proof that they reached the summit of Everest and use that as leverage on the promotional/motivational speaking circuit, to get into a better position in their employment, or for a string of other reasons, most of which include self-aggrandizement, and/or money. It certainly isn’t being done for love of climbing.
In one way I can see why. The sheer cost of getting to one of the countries where you can make the ascent, the huge price of proper gear, what you’ll pay to any company involved, permits to climb, the list goes on, and if you pay that’s a lot of money, if you don’t then you’ve probably spent months to years beforehand fund-raising. So far as I can tell, trying to climb Everest is likely to cost around $50,000 to $150,000 NZ. That’s trying – not succeeding. If you reach the top and can prove it, you may get your money back and a lot more besides. If you don’t you’re well out of pocket, and that’s not counting injuries, time, and emotional stress that may cripple you.
Frankly, after reading this book, it seemed to me that unless you’re a climber’s climber and want to summit on Everest for the sheer delight, then don’t bother. The chance of losing your money and/or dying is a lot less with other investments. I’m sad to read about the constant thefts, the threats, the greed of some of the companies and those who run them, (yes, a company is entitled to make money but too many of those in the book seem to be grossly incompetent and killing people as well) and frankly, I liked Everest a lot more when it wasn’t littered, people-covered, and a cash cow for most concerned. If you are ever approached to contribute to someone’s climb of Everest, I’d recommend that you sit down, read this book – then donate elsewhere!

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