Permit registrations have just reached a new high for Everest this season, currently at 454 climbers, with more expected as the season progresses. Those 454 people represent 61 different countries and are on 41 separate teams, as reported yesterday from Nepal. With their Sherpa support teams, there will be well over a 1,000 people on the mountain soon.
While the news coming in over the next month will be from the larger commercial expeditions, it is still possible to form a small team, with a few Sherpas and control your own timing and ascent plans. These teams will break few records, come and go mostly without notice and slip quietly out of Kathmandu, probably without even signing a Yeti foot in the notorious Rum Doodle. The records that aren’t records may be the most worthwhile ones these days, ones savored with just a few real friends and no followers.
On the mountain, the ropes are already fixed to the South Col at 7,906 metres (25,938 feet), with the fixing team now taking a break in Base Camp before returning to the heights and completing the rope highway to the summit. With some luck it will include two-way ropes going both up and down to avoid congestion, and perhaps even a passing lane for more impatient climbers? This will hopefully avoid the dreaded waiting in line, which has proved deadly in years past.
The original records on Everest: first to the top, first up a new route, first without oxygen, have now mostly been replaced with more and more obscure attempts: first from a country, first woman from a country, first up backwards and first up from door-to-door in the least time.
The ‘Flash’ expedition now starts when you leave your home, and the clock finishes as you arrive back and hop into bed. All that is necessary is a good supply of batteries for your go-pro so you can remember what you did.
The records most are now interested in are the very personal ones – the “can I do this myself” record. As fame and fortune isn’t likely to follow on from anything new on Everest, only the personal desire and then the will to stand on top of the world remains. As much as the Sherpas, the ropes, the weather forecasts and the pre-placed camps are all there, Everest will still most likely be the most dangerous and challenging endeavor of their life.
In a world where so many things are ethereal, half finished or done half-way, it is still a relief to have that top-of-the-world-happiness, those memories of the summit ridge and sunrise views, as an absolute in ones life.
With few real records left, for most, the personal achievement is still more than enough.