Tragedy in the Death Zone
Mount Everest. It symbolizes the ultimate achievement and, as we sadly witnessed this week, the ultimate in sacrifice.
It’s considered by many to be the ultimate achievement. Even its name evokes feelings of power, mystery and, as we sadly saw earlier this week, danger and death. When news came of the four climbers who died on Mount Everest’s slopes over the past weekend, audiences were simultaneously captivated and horrified. The four climbers—hailing from China, Germany, South Korea and Canada—represented everything we admire and fear of the world’s highest point.
Here in Canada, the death of 33-year-old climber and Torontonian Shriya Shah-Klorfine has been making headlines all week—and raising questions about the famous mountain and those who choose to summit: Are there too many people on Everest? Are the climbers properly prepared? Should we just let the mountain be, and forget our insatiable urge to conquer it?
Some reports say Shah-Klorfine wasn’t a skilled enough mountaineer. Others that she made her bid for the top too late in the day. Still others report that she was caught in a traffic jam of more than 200 people trying to summit during one of the few brief windows of good weather.
Sadly, answering these questions or understanding the circumstances of her death won’t bring her back, nor will it save the many climbers who have given their lives to Everest over the years. According to Outside Magazine, this week’s tragedy puts Everest’s death toll at 11 for this year. And no doubt there will be more in the future. Yet despite the danger, Mount Everest will always hold her appeal over us: the ultimate symbol of power, achievement and, yes, sacrifice.