The world's highest peak is so crowded with climbers that some are seriously considering installing a ladder on the famed Hillary Step to ease congestion. While the ladder is intended for use for those descending from the peak, the proposal still casts Mt. Everest's long-running overcrowding issue into stark relief.
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Here's the Guardian, on the ladder proposal:
"Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down. If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]. To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature," said Sherpa, who co-ordinates the work to prepare the traditional route up the mountain for clients who pay between $45,000 and $75,000."
The story of Everest's epic traffic jam has been bubbling under the surface for awhile. National Geographic, for instance, has a great piece on Everest crowds in their June issue, marking the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary's ascent to the peak. Apparently, the path to ascent is now littered with garbage, and corpses:
"We were forced to move at exactly the same speed as everyone else, regardless of strength or ability. In the swirling darkness before midnight, I gazed up at the string of lights, climbers’ headlamps, rising into the black sky. Above me were more than a hundred slow-moving climbers. In one rocky section at least 20 people were attached to a single ratty rope anchored by a single badly bent picket pounded into the ice. If the picket popped, the rope or carabiner would instantly snap from the weight of two dozen falling climbers, and they would all cartwheel down the face to their death.
Panuru, the lead Sherpa of our team, and I unclipped from the lines, swerved out into open ice, and began soloing—for experienced mountaineers, a safer option. Twenty minutes later, another corpse. Still attached to the line of ropes, he was sitting in the snow, frozen solid as stone, his face black, his eyes wide open."
The magazine proposes several other options for fixing Everest's crowd problem, none of which involve a ladder. Their solutions include fewer permits, certifying climbers for experience, reducing team size, and making sure litter (and bodies) are removed from the mountain.