Its been described as high altitude roulette, and claimed 19 lives in last years earthquake. So why do it? Photographers Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer find out
There are still simply two indices compiled by Everest obsessives: the list of those who reach the top, and the list of those who die. In recent years, the second largest of these has got longer. Sixteen sherpas were killed in a Khumbu icefall avalanche in 2014. Nineteen climbers from many nationalities died in Nepals megaquake last year, as obstructs of frost the size of shopping malls were shaken from the sides of nearby peaks.
My name is on the first roster. Twenty years ago, in the fabled( and lethal) season of 1996, I summited Everest from the north back. It find pretty wild to be up there. On our conference period, there was not a single footprint to be seen on the final ridge. As I reached for the summit spar, decked with fluttering Buddhist prayer flags, the rends were freezing solid on my neck. I became the fifth Briton to climb Everest from this back, the same roadway which killed mountain colonists George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924.
Climbers talk about feeding the rat their hunger for gamble, for objection, for panic. Everest still delivers that. Our water bottles had solidified in the crushingly cold temperatures you affect at 8,000 metres and beyond, perpetrating us to a 16 hour conference period without liquor. In the final hour of an epic retreat to the high camp my oxygen bottle out of gas, my form close to critical dehydration, physical exhaustion shutting down muscles I didnt even know prevailed I could not remember my own refer nor the name of the mountain I was on.
The perimeters get terribly thin up there. I came back down with four minutes of conference footage and two frostbitten fingers. My rat was happy, for a while. Nine epoches earlier, a massive gale had broom the mountain, killing eight climbers, the worst loss of life on a single period on the mountain up to that detail. A total of 15 people died that outpouring. The rollercoaster move of folly and survival describes so vividly by climber Jon Krakauer in his book Into Thin Air drove itself profoundly into the American consciousness so deeply that it was recently was transformed into a major Hollywood cinema. The mountain has become bigger than itself.
This year I was back on Everest, as columnist in palace for the Sheffield-based safarus firm Jagged Globe. We flew into the rugged airstrip of Lukla, a white-knuckle suffer in its own privilege. There werent many trekkers around this time; tourism and megaquakes dont sit well together. A darknes in a cosy Nepali teahouse loses some of its allure when you know the stone walls around you have only just been rebuilt, and the hefty beams over your top are still splintered right through.