If you fancy an ascent, you’ll encounter long queues, a whopping fee and tons of human faeces.
Fancy a crack at climbing Everest? Don’t bother. As far as the highest mountain on Earth is concerned, we have reached peak peak. That at least was the opinion of Chris Bonington, 83, speaking at the Hay literary festival about his new autobiography, Ascent. The book details his four expeditions to the mountain: two on the fearsome south-west face, the second successful; a tragic attempt on the north-east ridge, when his friends Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker disappeared; and a final, triumphant trip to the summit in 1985 with the Norwegian businessman, Arne Naess Jr.
Back in the day, Everest gave Bonington the kind of profile that could sell Bovril and more besides. But now? “It’s awful,” he said. “Thank God I don’t have to go back there.” And if you still insist on following in the footsteps of celebrity bucket-listers Ben Fogle and Victoria Pendleton, “be prepared to stand in a long queue, as you’ll be doing it with about 600 other people”.
He is not exaggerating. This spring, more than 700 climbers and their Sherpas reached the summit, smashing the 2013 record. It’s not cheap, either: according to Alan Arnette’s trusted Everest blog, the median price for a shot at the summit is a whopping $41,500 (£31,000) from the more popular Nepal side. According to Arnette, this is the price of a car, which says a lot about his driving. My car wouldn’t get me a ticket to Kathmandu.
“It’s all bullshit on Everest these days,” Edmund Hillary said not long before he died in 2008. If only. What with all those climbers and trekkers visiting base camp, 12 tons of faeces each year gets shoveled into an enormous pit. The good news is there’s a plan to turn this particular mountain into biogas.
The bad news is that the management of the mountain is rarely so enlightened. The Tourism Ministry of Nepal, which charges each climber $11,000 plus a raft of other taxes, has been criticized frequently for putting revenue ahead of sustainable management. The Everest industry has lifted living standards for many who live nearby. But it seems there ain’t no mountain high enough that we can’t trash it. THE GUARDIAN