Jewish World Review June 16, 2003 / 16 Sivan, 5763

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Because it's there


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Sir Edmund Hillary, who first scaled Mount Everest fifty years ago, has joined other veteran climbers to suggest that the big rock might need a rest.

According to the Associated Press, so many people are crowding the mountain that there are frequently "traffic jams on the fixed ropes and ladders that cross the icy ridges." Also, "Mount Everest is littered with tents, plastic wrappings, food cans and oxygen bottles."

Ken Noguchi, a Japanese mountaineer, has been working for four years to clean the mountain. He came down with 21/2 tons of refuse, and claims there are about ten tons of garbage still left up there.

I'd always thought that Mt. Everest posed a daunting and dangerous challenge to even the most skilled climber, requiring tenacity, courage, intelligence, and strength. Now, apparently, it's just another tourist trap. Climbers are zipping up and down the cliffs like frat boys on spring break, tossing off empties. Next thing you know we'll opening a Gap store up there, a Starbucks, a multiplex, a Taco Bell.

Nepal, naturally, is reluctant to curb climbers. In addition to providing employment for Sherpas, each seven member team is required to pay 70,000 bucks to the Nepalese government. There are usually 12 teams allowed up every spring, which makes for a nice chunk of change. This year there were twice as many. One week in May, about 140 people reached the summit.

Personally, I am wary of any leisure activity that involves oxygen deprivation and exertion, but clearly there are many out there who view facing potential brain damage, freezing to death, severe frostbite, or a fall from a great height as more of a lark than a challenge.

Maybe Nepal should just put a dome over the whole thing and call it Everestland. Build a couple roller coasters on its side. Have some Nepalese dress up like Yeti to throw a scare into the kids. At the very least, put a couple dumpsters up on the summit, some garbage bins at least, separated and marked for glass, paper, and trash. I'll let Nepal borrow mine, if they want. I may not know much about death-defying adventure, but I do know recycling.

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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.

Up

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© 2001, Ian Shoales