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Everest - Sucking on the barrel

25 May 2012 - Expression

For some reason I keep getting journalists - print, radio, and TV - ringing me up and wanting my opinion on Everest - a mountain I’ve never climbed on a continent I’ve never visited.  I’d like to believe this is due to my position as a world class sounding board for the opinions of climbers, but really I put it down to a healthy google ranking and a website with my email address at the top.

Never the less:

Every time someone dies my mobile rings.

Every time there’s another stunt my email pings.

Every time someone finds a pair of Mallory’s old underpants I’m asked what this means for world mountaineering..

My stock answer is to point out that I’m a climber, and that Everest isn’t a climb, but a walk.  This usually gets the person at the other end a bit confused and flustered as they check their notes.  “Yes” I usually continue “If you have to step over a dead body half way up then it’s classed as walk.  On real climbs the bodies fall to the bottom”.

“What do you think about the recent deaths” they continue, ignoring what I’ve just said, their pen at the ready thinking that one more quote and they can file their copy.

“Oh dying is great - it’s what it’s all about” I tell them “it makes it all so much better when you don’t”.  I explain the fact that every single summiteer will stress how ‘undead’ they are on their return (as well as in their book/website/TV doc voiceover), weighing their achievement by the number of ‘proper dead’ there were.  Sure they’ll speak to the BBC via sat phone and say what a tragedy it is, but deep down they love it - it makes it real - gives it that edge, like sucking on the barrel of loaded gun.  If you summit in a year when no ones dies then you’re forced to go back to 1996 and tell how eight people died in one day just to prove how ‘undead’ and hardcore you are.

I’m told the figures for deaths on Everest are 1 in 10, which sounds bad until you consider the ratio between big fuck off scary mountain and clueless out of their depth tourist, and I expect if you dropped this bunch into Mosside the numbers would come out the same (if nothing more than the fact that walking around Manchester in a big yellow North Face down suit would lead to certain death via mugging).  Death and the risk of it is the stock in trade of many modern adventurers (just read my book Psychovertical - I’m nearly ‘properdead’ in every chapter!), be it rowing the oceans (very safe actually), skiing to the Poles (also very safe actually), or running across deserts (dito).  Throughout all these things there is that Discovery channel voice booming along about how hardcore it is by pointing out how X people have died doing it.  Well lots of people have died driving along the M1 but they don’t write books about it (although the queue aren’t as big as Everest).  Of course no one wants to die - just give the impression they could (most Atlantic rowers have a support boat - the last few high profile polar trips had 4x4’s following them).  But then mountains are callous and don’t care about your back story or dreams - or even how good you are.  On everest the safety net that keeps your from the dead has very large holes, and the higher you get the bigger they become.

These days when people get in touch my blunt answer to most questions about Everest thought is ‘I don’t give a fuck about Everest’ and really no right minded person should either.  Who really cares about the trash up there (have you ever been to India or Nepal where a rubbish dump is called ‘the other side of your garden wall’!).  Who’s bothered about the fixed ropes, pegs and bolts apart from those who see them and have to trust them?  You can’t rape a mountain you idiot, only an idea, and when that idea is simply “X is higher than Y” then who cares.  What about exploiting the porters and the sherpas?  Again have you ever been to a developing country and seen what lengths people will go to make a living?  Most of the hand wringing by ‘proper’ climbers is all tied up with jealousy and the envy of opportunity, and everyone knows that deep down they’d suck the devil’s cock to climb it.

So, if you’re a lazy journo who’s come across this bit of writing while doing your research then please don’t get in touch (although I’m happy for you to cut and paste whatever you like).


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Comments 28
  • Sven

    +1 thanks for this!

  • Chris Surfleet

    Quality post! Fair cheered me up

  • Chris


  • JMB

    Andy K is the master and commander of the known universe.

  • Rob Corbett

    i heard Bear Grylls dare you to walk up Everest the other day Andy wink

  • John C

    Respect for Andy K…

  • TB

    “If you have to step over a dead body half way up then it’s classed as walk.  On real climbs the bodies fall to the bottom”. 

    fnka mate, this statment cannot be any truer.


  • Lydia

    Haha, so delicately put and right on. Achievements of the sort that require a single-file line hundreds of people long are baffling. Mecca for the rich and insecure, maybe? Or just material for those with too-small stories and too-big mouths?

  • James

    Bra-fucking-vo! Eloquently put as only you could, Andy.

  • grammar nazi

    Really bothers me that improper use of you’re.

    “have you ever been to India or Nepal where a rubbish dump is called ‘the other side of you’re garden wall’!”

    Should be your denoting ownership, not you’re the contraction of you and are.

  • Fiona H

    That made me laugh.  You have a ‘way’ with putting words together:)

  • Jamie Morrison

    Interesting take on it all… just a typo… “Well lots of people have died driving along the M1 but they don’t right books about it”... write not right.

  • Simon Gee

    Gross oversimplification Andy…The only way folks get up Everest is following Guides who sell them the dream…Take a way the guides and getting to the summit is a major a achievement for any human being…you don’t need me to list all the major mountaineering ascents before 1953 its no less a climb than sport climbing or bouldering or big walling…all that’s happened is Climbers (Guides) have worked out how to make money out of it.

  • bobdemob

    Spot on AK. Ignorant hacks feeding at the trough of exploitation. They are no better than the so-called ‘guides’ feeding at the same trough. And gullible, ingenues actually think being dragged up the rope will count for something.
    Not for me.
    And I’d suck that cock for a shot at The ‘38 Route

  • Rustam Stolkin

    I tried writing “It depends on how hot or cold you are compared to the ice” - thinking this might be some kind of important Kirkpatrick opinion poll on the matter… when it told me I was wrong, I thought “how many science degrees as he got the fat fucker, and he can’t even do one-arm chinups either” before realising I had missed the point…

  • Sakari

    Made my day mate! Good post

  • Rustam

    Apologies for daft previous posting - I really enjoyed this article, and was thinking the same thing while watching that tv show about everest recently where the american lady allegedly put her crampons on back to front as well as upside down before going on about how much will-power she had. Reminded me of the bit in Krakauer’s book where the Japanese business lady (I think it was) didn’t know how to attach her crampons either…

    But maybe Simon Gee has a point - strip away the guides, fixed ropes and ladders and I’m guessing the Hillary Step feels kindof scary, and presumably some other climbing-y bits on the mountain too. On that note, I reckon they should cut all the fixed ropes off the Hinterstoiser Traverse too -I’m only a weekend bumbly and will probably never be capable of attempting the Eiger, but if I did I’d want to feel that I actually climbed the difficult pitch myself!

  • Tim Moss

    Nice article Andy. I pity any poor journalist who dials your number though!

    New site’s looking good too.

  • Cezza

    Very very funny

  • Beastly Squirrel

    Quality wrie up - well said!

  • Margaret

    Thank goodness someone (AK) is putting out a counter point of view to all the publicity of the current Everest record breaking antics.

  • HP Hartmann

    well said!

  • phil burke

    Excellent post. I think it just articulates what most climbers, as opposed to corporate “tossers” think about the Everest circus. I,m glad it,s on UK Climbing as well [should promote some reaction]

  • Zeus

    *Brilliant* simplification - nothing gross about it. 
    Totally get the point about climb versus walk.  The item is about journalists fascination with near death experiences - not putting down other’s achievements.  Think you’re putting words in Andy’s mouth.

  • David Powlesland

    Andy - Ever fancied a expedition in an upside down Everest beneath the Austrian Alps? That is if your not scared of the dark . .  .

    (I would post a tempting picture of gaping virgin passageway but the computer has defeated me)

  • Ian

    I don’t often comment on issues and am not exactly Walter Bonatti but you are bang on the money with this article. Thanks

  • True Religion

    Need the courage to create a real kingdom,” the film, people Du Lala, where fashion is an even, here simply to the Kingdom, tune up, positioning in the clouds.

  • Jerry Auld

    So true and well said, as always.
    Saw your pres in Banff and loved it.
    Read your blog between then and the BT and sympathized (I’ve been there, short-listed in 2009). What a roller-coaster.
    Super glad you won the BT again. Well deserved.
    (And yeah, yours WAS better than FIVA but then, who can understand the judging?)
    We have mutual friends and old climbing mates in Andrew Brash. Climb, and write, on man.


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