Everest summit ridge, Sibusisu Vilane

Everest 2023 – Both Easier and More Dangerous Than Ever?

Everest is both becoming easier, as evidenced simply by the numbers of people consistently summiting.

And, perhaps some might argue, by the number of people with very few traditional climbing skills that are now make it to the top.

Everest, Hillary Step
Climbers seem to be able to make it up, barely. But if anything goes wrong they are relying on others, or just a lot of luck, to help get them down.

As much as Everest and the wider high Himalayan peaks have simply become a “Climbathon” with helicopters, sherpa support, luxury base camp options and oxygen providing a rapid transition into the heights, and back again, there are some things that can never be pedestrian.

So Everest is also becoming potentially more dangerous, with large amounts of people in places that can in no way be considered safe.

Warmer temperatures up high translate to more movement of the ice and rocks up high and on the glaciers below. More people create build-ups that force people to wait in places where things can hit them, and up higher, burn through their oxygen that once gone, is a quick recipe for disaster.

With people climbing faster, on rapid or ‘flash’ ascents, the under – acclimitzed have even less room to get it wrong.

Climbing ropes and anchors, originally designed for holding two or three climbers, now hold 50 or more, as climbers line up on ropes up the Lhotse Face and again from the South Col to the summit.

The physical holding power of the anchors and ropes on Everest defies logic. A stone cutting them, a misplaced crampon point, an ice axe, too much weight on the ropes or the anchors and they can’t be expected to always hold. Yet the lines just seem to be getting longer and heavier.

And crowds of people in avalanche paths, from the Icefall under the West Shoulder, to being in Camp 1 under the slopes of Nuptse, to the ice on the Lhotse Face with another 1,000 meters of snow above you, provides a host of places where you never want to be for very long. There is a very sound reason Sherpas avoid ever staying in Camps 1 or 3 unless they absolutely have to.

So as the mountain gets easier, the potential for disaster increases exponentially.

Should there be limits, or restrictions, or qualifications required? One of the great things about climbing is rules have never really existed – you can go from zero to hero in a day.

But that doesn’t mean it will ever really be easy. Or safe.

So the easier Everest appears, the more dangerous it will become.