Even before this spring’s tragic earthquake(s), the outdoor media has been obsessed with “fixing” Mount Everest. Outside Magazine and National Geographic have built a virtual empire of deeply concerned essays on the topic. The mountain is covered in poo and dead people. The standard commercial route runs under the seracs that killed Sherpas last year and blasted base camp this year. There have been physical confrontations between commercially employed Sherpas and professional alpinists. And now more deaths, and a massive (and heroic) rescue effort that may have been a huge waste of helicopter time when thousands of Nepalis were dying or stranded with fewer resources and less safety than the 100-odd climbers flown down from base camp.
Am I going there? Am I actually going to joke about this?
Yes. But I’m joking seriously. And I know there’s no skiing yet in this article, but there totally will be a little lower down, and also in the last bit.
The only problem with Everest is that it’s a magnet for unimaginative people with too much money. There are thousands of perfectly serviceable mountains to climb or ski or fall down, most of them not covered in poo and dead people. But only one can be the tallest, and thus really mean something.
Because the problem is ultimately psychological, a solution must be psychological, conceptual, existential. We must disincentivize people who are perverse enough to pay a lot of money to camp out on a pile of poo and corpses from compulsively doing so. Officially renaming the mountain, not to its local traditional name(s), but to something less sexy, like Mount Fecal-Contaminated-Water, seems obvious, but I suspect more dramatic means may be required.
The only problem with Everest is that it’s a magnet for unimaginative people with too much money.
Some folks might note that both the economy of Nepal and the Sherpa people themselves have become dependent on the Everest market, but is all that work and risk and poo-tainted water really worth it for the pittance they get on the other end? The mountain communities of Nepal are going to need to rebuild in the wake of a devastating earthquake—perhaps toting gear up a fecal death march for first-world egotists isn’t the best foundation for a sustainable economy. And it’s worth noting that American media makes more money off of Everest (risk-free!) than all the Sherpas and porters put together. Look, I’m doing it right now. I’ve made a week’s worth of porter’s wages writing this already. The Sherpas would be far better off writing concerned essays about Everest for Outside than groveling up the damn thing.
At any rate, I’ve come up with two equally possible solutions.
The first is what I call The Cham Plan: build a sweet tram to the summit. With a pressurized gift shop on top. And—this is important—a bathroom. Plus hotels and discos at the base full of Swedes and drunk English holiday-makers. Et voila: le montagne du merde c’est repare!*
And just like the Aiguille du Midi, people could ski if they wanted. Which could be amazing, and at least would disperse the corpses more widely. Get a couple of snowcats up there and you might be able to groom the Khumbu Icefall.
Sure, it’s a joke, a whimsical notion, but keep in mind that the European Union just spent well over 100 million euros building a new sight-seeing tram on the Italian side of Mont Blanc—as an economic stimulus. Trams: always awesome (except for Squaw).
My second and preferred solution to The Problem Of Everest is the overwhelming application of American military power. Not against unimaginative aspiring climbers and skiers or Outside Magazine, but against the mountain itself—more specifically the top 800 feet or so, the bit that makes it taller than the other ones. All it’s going to take is one quick mission with a B-52 to end this creepy obsession with pooping and dying on the World’s Largest Protrusion.
Thanks to fears about Iran’s possible underground bunker-based nuclear weapons program and our friends at Northrop/Grumman and Boeing, we’ve got the solution: 30,000 pounds of pure American domination, the GPS-enabled and blissfully irony-free GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb, designed to blast through 200 feet of bedrock before exploding.
What could be more American than Massive Ordnance Penetration? Let’s use it for something productive and harmless for a change.
All it’s going to take is one quick mission with a B-52 to end this creepy obsession with pooping and dying on the World’s Largest Protrusion.
A quick and surgical strike with several Massive Penetrators should lower the summit of Everest well below that of second-highest peak, K2, rendering it pointless for the vast majority of the people that want to climb it, and replacing it as Highest Mountain in the world with one that is far more difficult, dangerous, and remote. K2 could then be managed with periodic airstrikes as needed.
I wonder if I can get Outside or NatGeo to get on board with this plan. It might create some cool new ski terrain and would definitely clean up the hanging serac problem in the area. Besides, if the Wikipedia article is correct, the GBU-57A/B is about to become surplus as it gets replaced by a smaller version. Which means that we’ll have about 50 useless giant bombs lying around. Might as well do something fun with them.
And who knows, it could establish a great precedent for using more advanced surplus weaponry in snow safety work. We already use howitzers and throw explosives out of helicopters. Why not apply the full might of our military technology to stabilize the snowpack? Sure, you can shoot Superior with a howitzer, but a single B-52 deploying hundreds of GPS-guided bomblets could probably whack every Little Cottonwood start zone in a single pass. It’d keep the dawn patrollers on their toes, that’s for sure.
In the meantime, I’m advocating for Massive Ordnance Penetration of Everest, or an Aiguille du Nepali tram from base camp to the summit gift shop. And bathrooms. Plenty of bathrooms.
*The mountain of shit is fixed!