Profit Over Safety Speculated for Everest Climbing Firms

Jordan Guzman | ClimbingClimbing
Behind the Scenes on the National Geographic Everest 2019 trip, rough weather at camp. Credit: Renan Ozturk, Facebook.

Record-breaking Everest climber Kenton Cool claims that companies leading expeditions to Mt. Everest are putting profit over participant safety. This comes after one of the deadliest years for Mt. Everest climbers. As of the end of this spring, 13 people died climbing the mountain. Around 300 have died since expeditions up the mountain began in 1900.

Cool, a 49-year-old British climber holds the record for the most climbs of Mt. Everest for someone not Nepalese. That record is a whopping 17 climbs to the famed summit of the world’s tallest mountain. Along with Mt. Everest, Cool has climbed the North Face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps, completed the Everest Triple Crown, and completed ski descents of 26,864-foot Cho Oyu and 26,781-foot Manaslu in Nepal.

In an interview with the Times, Cool explained how throngs of people are now attempting to climb Everest, with many of them having little experience in climbing. Cool’s experience in climbing before scaling Everest was crucial to his success. Now, however, many people are not adequately prepared to climb Everest. Furthermore, expedition firms have appeared and then folded one after another, revealing limited accountability for upholding safety. Cool is calling for higher safety standards for the climbing companies.

A shocking incident Cool heard about on Mt. Everest included a touring firm not having enough oxygen canisters for all clients. “If you’ve got ten clients and you’ve only got oxygen for five of them, if all ten need it, what do you do then?” he said. He explained that this likely would not happen in the West.

However, some Nepalese officials believe the seasons, weather, and climate change are to blame, not the touring firms. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Nepal’s tourism department director, explained, “Weather conditions were not favorable, it was very variable” and “climate change is having a big impact in the mountains.”

While this may be the case, Mt. Everest has become increasingly crowded, and how industry standards change to address climber safety remains to be seen.

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