Do We Need Police on Mt. Everest? Page 2

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Pavel Novak

Last year’s physical confrontation, however, was unprecedented, and may have struck panic into Nepalese officials. The fees that climbers pay for access to Everest make it a cash cow for the country.

“You don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” Isserman said. “What I imagine is going on is that they think, ‘We have to recreate a sense of stability and safety so that foreigners can come here and climb the mountain and not run into trouble.’”

As of last week, there was no sign of police at Base Camp, said Peter Hansen, a historian at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and author of “The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment.”

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Even if they police show up, he said, they were probably unnecessary. One reason is that most of the Sherpas’ feelings of anger and frustration are aimed not at foreign climbers but at the Nepali government, which many have argued, doesn’t do enough to compensate them for the risks they take on.

The media has also overblown reports of overcrowding and fighting, said Linden Mallory, a guide for RMI Expeditions in Ashford, Wash., who summited Everest with clients in 2011 and spent all or part of three other seasons at Base Camp since 2009.

“The first time I visited Everest, it was November, during the fall post-monsoon climbing season,” said Mallory (no relation to George Mallory, who died on the mountain during his third attempt in 1924). “I was expecting a much more trodden place with garbage piles and things like that, but it just looked like a glacier.”

In his experience, camaraderie is plentiful among Sherpas and Western climbers, even when they belong to different teams.

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“You’re all there to climb a pretty big mountain,” Mallory said. “There’s a lot of support and whether there’s a rescue happening or somebody is not feeling well, I’ve always felt that there are a lot of people outside my immediate team that I can lean on.”

Mountaineer and Everest blogger Alan Arnette agreed that the mountain brings out great goodness in people that often gets overlooked, and that plans to put police on the mountain were probably more of a symbolic gesture than an actual peacekeeping one.

“The media likes to focus on selfishness but there is an equal amount of unselfishness and humanity on this mountain that never (gets) reported,” Arnette said. “You have climbers and Sherpas every year who give up the summit to help strangers or guides who help other teams.”

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And even though reports from the 2012 spring season featured pictures of long lines and bottlenecks on the climb due to an unusually short weather window that year, many climbers who get to the summit do it quietly and without fuss. Arnette was the fourth person to stand on top of the mountain on the day in 2011 that he summited as the sun was rising at 5:30 a.m. He never had to wait a single minute at any point during his climb.

“You can cherry-pick your data and say 100 or 200 people are going for the summit on a single day,” he said. “But Everest is a huge mountain. You can find just as much data to show that there’s room for everybody.”

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