This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first summit of Mount Everest, a feat that’s been attempted by thousands of climbers since. Although we all understand ascending the world’s highest peak is one of the most grueling challenges on the planet, few people also know that summiting the mountain is only one risk climbers take; they also often fly in via one of the most nail-biting runways in the world.
Associated Press reports that Tenzing-Hillary Airport is really just a small airstrip carved out of the side of the mountain. There’s just a single, narrow runway – and if the pilot misses it by just a few feet, the plane will hit a mountain. To further complicate things, the airport is surrounded by mountains, meaning once a pilot passes a certain point, there is no choice but to land.
The airstrip was built in 1965 by Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to conquer Everest, and it is named for him and his climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay. Hillary created the airport to help Sherpas spur development in the area, and ever since many climbers choose to fly into the airport in order to avoid a daylong bus trip from the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, and five days of trekking.
Since its inception, the airport has claimed about 50 deaths – far fewer than Everest itself, which has seen about 240 deaths. But still, with a track record like that, the runway can definitely be considered high risk. For more on the world’s most dangerous runways, check out this slideshow.
We’ve seen some truly amazing time-lapse videos in recent months but it is difficult to top this one. It was shot on Mt. Everest this spring and delivers a true sense of the scale of that mountain. Many of the images were captured at various campsites along the route up to the summit and feature some stunning shots of the night sky above the tallest mountain in the world. It is a short, but beautiful film that will leave you in awe of our planet.
“Everest -A time lapse short film” from Elia Saikaly on Vimeo.
A controversial plan to install a ladder on Mt. Everest has been met with a less than enthusiastic response from the mountaineering community. The mountain guides behind the proposal say that the ladder will help to alleviate traffic jams near the summit, while purists claim that it will detract from the overall challenge of the climb.
The plan was first made public this past weekend when Dawa Steven Sherpa, a prominent mountain guide and member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal, revealed that the organization was considering installing a ladder at the Hillary Step, a crucial point in the climb on Everest’s South Side. Named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to scale it, the Hillary Step is located at 28,750 feet. The 40-foot rock wall has been the cause of bottlenecks in recent years as climbers attempt to negotiate the tricky route while wearing crampons and other heavy climbing gear. Since only one person can be on the ropes at any given time, others end up standing around watching and waiting for their turn. This can be especially dangerous due to the thin air, cold temperatures and weather conditions that have been known to change abruptly.
According to Dawa, the ladder would only be used by climbers who are descending, which would have little to no impact on the level of challenge related to the climb. It would simply direct the traffic heading down in a slightly different direction, thus eliminating congestion and diminishing traffic jams.But opponents of the plan say that those coming to the mountain should already know how to safely climb a relatively easy technical section such as the Hillary Step. They argue that the ladder will enable even more people to attempt Everest, bring more inexperienced and untested climbers to the mountain. Critics say that it could possibly even lead to further crowding in the future.
It should be noted that ladders are already used on certain sections of Everest. For instance, climbers on the South Side use them to traverse the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous section that would be nearly impossible to pass through without the aid of a ladder. On the North Side of the mountain, which falls inside China controlled Tibet, there is a permanent ladder installed at a place called the Second Step. That rock face is far more difficult than the Hillary Step however and without the ladder there, almost no one would successfully reach the top along that route.
Personally, I feel that if Nepal truly wants to make the mountain safer they should limit the number of permits that are issued each year. That won’t happen however, as the permits bring in a lot of money to a country that is otherwise extremely poor. Given the alternatives, I’d say adding the ladder is a wise move.
Yesterday, 80-year-old mountaineer Yiuchiro Miura successfully reached the summit of Mt. Everest, setting a new age record in the process. Miura, who has climbed the mountain on two previous occasions, is now the oldest person to ever stand on top of the tallest mountain on the planet. But just how long he’ll hold that distinction remains to be seen.
There were some concerns about the weather conditions heading to the summit, as the forecasts had called for high winds. Bad weather could have scrubbed Miura’s summit attempt, but fortunately the predicted shift didn’t come. As a result, it was a good day for climbing and although it was cold on the summit, the Japanese alpinist and his son Gota managed to reach the top in a safe and timely fashion. They spent roughly a half-hour on the summit celebrating their accomplishment and calling home to their support team via satellite phone before heading back down.
We told you about Miura’s quest to climb Everest a few weeks back, noting at the time that he was vying for the title of the oldest to achieve that feat with 81-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal. Sherchan has yet to begin his climb as a stomach ailment has kept him in Base Camp in recent days. He says that he is feeling stronger now and hopes to make a summit bid next week. If he is successful, he’ll wrest the title of oldest Everest climber away from his Japanese rival. In 2008, at the age of 76, Sherchan topped out one day ahead of Miura, nabbing the record that has stood for the past five years.
Sherchan will have to have a little luck go his way, however, as the weather forecasts indicate the current summit window will close in the next few days. It is unclear whether or not another window will open before the end of the month, which traditionally sees a shifting of the jet stream that signals the arrival of the seasonal monsoons. When that happens, no one will be able to climb Everest until the fall at the earliest.