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Everest 1996

Have just started reading ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer and his first chapter had a lot of people disappearing on Everest in 1996. So I googled it :) and here’s what I learnt…

Everest has been a huge thing since it was found to the highest mountain in the world by a begali babu who calculated its height to be 29,002 ft. in 1852. To give due credit, it was the British survey boys who did the initial measurement. Today after some major calculations using GPS, satellites and other fancy equipment the height is found to be 29,029 ft.

Since then it became a British obsession to be the first on top of it. An odd thing the British have to be the first everywhere on earth but anyway, that’s a topic for another day.

BTW Mount Everest was named after George Everest, a Surveyor General of India but it has other local names – Sagarmatha in Nepal, Chomolungma or Qomolangma in Tibet and Zhumulangma in China. All of which mean Mother of Earth or Holy Mother.

It was in 1885 that the Alpine Club in England suggested climbing Everest but it was only in 1921 that George Mallory found a possible route. There are main routes to the top but the SouthEast Ridge route and NorthEast Ridge route are climbed the most. Mallory and Irvine perished in 1924 on Mallory’s third attempt and the world will maybe never know if they made it to the top. Mallory’s body was found in 1999 and even though the clues indicate they didn’t make it; no one knows for sure yet.

After this a lot of attempts were made but it wasn’t until 29 years later on 29 May 1953 that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited Mount Everest via the South route. (Mallory had climbed the North Route). 8 May 1978 saw Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler made the first ascent without supplemental oxygen again from the South.

Moving on… There were a lot of attempts and a lot of people summited after this. Everest started to become a tourist attraction. If you had the time and the money agencies would get you to the top. A lot of travel agencies for the Everest sprung up. This of course got its flak from people like Sir Edmund and others who thought it was disrespectful to nature and the Everest as people who were incapable but could pay were taken to the top.

I agree with this point as it seems at some point people forgot that the Everest and nature are still all powerful and have some tricks up their sleeves. You could pay all you want but if she wants to stop you, you’ll never get to the top.

1996 was a disaster year in Everest history. In the year 15 people died and 8 of those died on May 11. A lot of reasons for this and the book ‘Into Thin Air’ is all about it. But some are that there were too many people on the mountain that day, people didn’t follow rules, they refused to bow to the power of Everest and didn’t back at the first sign of trouble.
Of course there are different view points to this debacle and many books and documentaries have been written and made.

This is the gist but am providing links below if you want to read more…

Then in 2006 40-odd people passed a climber but no one helped. David Sharp died there on May 15, 2006. This has caused huge controversies about ethics. In the same year 10 days later after the Sharp incident a team found David Mazur and managed to save him.

And so the saga goes on… hundreds of people summit the Everest every year but more than 200 people have lost their lives over the years too. Most of these bodies are still on the mountain and can be seen from the routes – bodies claimed by Everest.

Further Reading –

Mount Everest

British Mount Everest Expedition 1924

1996 Everest disaster

The Everest Decade: 1996-2007 – National Geographic

(2006) 12 Dead: What is going on with Everest?

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