Yes, it’s an accomplishment, but it’s not like all the modern climbers, with their state-of-the-art equipment, are Sir Edmund Hillary or Tenzing Norgay. And what a mess they’re necessarily leaving behind:
When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the top of Mount Everest in 1953, it was arguably the loneliest place on Earth — an oxygen-deprived desert perched atop an icy, 29,000-foot ladder of death. Over the last 62 years, more than 4,000 climbers have replicated the pair’s feat, with hundreds more attempting to do so during the two-month climbing season each spring, according to the Associated Press.
Along the way, people have left oxygen canisters, broken climbing equipment, trash, human waste and even dead bodies in their wake, transforming the once pristine peak into a literal pile of … well, you get the idea. “The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted, with garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement befouling the high camps,” mountaineer Mark Jenkins wrote in a 2013 National Geographic article on Everest.
Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading Everest cleanup expeditions since 2008, told the AP that some climbers carry disposable toilet bags with them at higher altitudes. A group of Nepali artists has collected 1.5 tons of Everest trash — including remnants of a crashed helicopter — brought down by climbers and transformed it into 74 pieces of art, according to CNN.
Perhaps it’s time to leave the mountain alone — because it’s there — and go find something else to do. A cure for cancer would be nice.