I havent climbed Mount Everest, and right now, I dont want to.
Why? For starters, I dont consider myself a mountaineer. Ive trekked up a few mountains, dont get me wrong, and even walked the length of the Himalayas for six months, but for the most part I stuck to the paths, valleys and high passes, leaving the peaks to the experts.
Another reason why I have no desire to climb the infamous peak is that I dont like queues. And these days it seems that theres a lot of queuing going on.
I visited my friend Nims Purjah a few weeks ago at Annapurna base camp, half way up the mountain and chatted to him about his Project Possible mission to climb the 14 highest peaks in the world in just one season – the current record is just shy of eight years!
Bonkers you might think, but unlike me, Nims is a professional mountaineer and proper climber with several world speed records under his belt.
The former SBS operator gave up his distinguished military career to undertake what will be probably the most impressive feat of mountaineering in history. Whats the biggest danger? I asked him. He smiled and replied. Other people.
Hes referring of course to the inexperienced hordes of tourists that pay extortionate amounts to outfitters to drag them up mountains for the glory of getting to the top.
Now Im not saying that theres anything wrong with wanting to scale the roof of the world, and far be it from me to put others off going on their own adventures and fulfilling their dreams. But Everest has already claimed the lives of 11 people this season, and no doubt there will be more tragedy to come.
Nims now famous photograph of the enormous queue to get to the top of our planets highest mountain clearly shows the enormity of the problem.
He had to wait patiently for four hours in the death zone before his turn came to reach the summit and he told me of all his challenges so far, standing still in those freezing temperatures was a real low.
Whats more, when ill-prepared climbers succumb to exposure it puts everyone else at risk as rescue parties must put their own lives on the line. Nims has already saved several lives in his own impromptu rescues, but he admits that its taken a huge toll on his own climbing and hes seen far too much death as a result.
The problem is that of scale. Despite the eye watering sums of money that is costs to climb Everest, not to mention the obvious risks, there is no sign of demand ceasing.
The Nepal government issued 44 permits this year (through which 381 climbers were permitted to climb Everest in Spring 2019), and with a narrow climbing window, its clear that unless something is done, then people will continue to cram themselves up as soon as the weather clears and offers the opportunity.
What then is the answer? Nims reckons the season could be extended by a week or so, and the Sherpas could fix the ropes earlier.