Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Himalaya Spring 2015: Another Lost Season on Everest

This is the time of year when I should be posting about summit bids on Everest and other big Himalayan peaks. Historically speaking, this week is one in which all of the variables come together to allow the climbers on the world's tallest mountain to go to the top at long last. But for the second straight year we're left contemplating a tragic event that has brought a halt to those proceedings, although this year it is on a much grander scale than we could have ever imagined.

The Nepal earthquake continues to have far reaching consequences on a country that struggled to provide reliable services and good infrastructure even in the best of times. Now, it is a nation in ruins, and many people are without homes, jobs, food, or water. The road to recovery is going to be a long one, and it is surely going to be made all the more challenging thanks to the Nepali government's track record of internal corruption and a history of making dubious decisions.

Obviously my heart goes out to the people of Nepal in their time of need and suffering. But I also can't help but lament the fact that we have another lost season on Everest too. This is a time when exhausted – but overjoyed – alpinists should be returning to Base Camp having completed a climb that they have spent years dreaming about, months planning for, and weeks preparing to finish.

At this point in the season, most would have been on the mountain for about six weeks, and after days spent acclimatizing and waiting patiently, they would get their shot at the summit at long last. Instead, most of those climbers have long since left for home, their dreams shattered along with the Nepali countryside. Some remain in the country however, working hard to lend assistance where they can. Most people who visit Nepal – either as climbers or trekkers – feel a deep connection with the place, and the people who live there, which is part of the reason there has been such an impressive outpouring of support from the outdoor community. It is a very special place, where adventure, nature, and spirituality all come together in a perfect union that is hard to explain if you haven't experienced it for yourself. But when you do, it is something that you never can forget.

2014 will be remembered as a year when the Sherpa people mourned the loss of their brethren on the slopes of Everest. 2015 will be remembered as the year that we all morned the loss of our brothers and sisters in Nepal. It is hard to think about mountaineering expeditions when you consider all of the challenges that lie ahead for that country, but believe it or not climbing will help heal the people there. The return of climbers and trekkers will be a sign that things are returning to normal, and it will bring a much needed influx of cash to the economy. Those days are still a long way off at this point, but I think we are all eager for them to arrive.

Perhaps next year we'll see climbers make their way to the summit once again. It will be a sign that stability has returned at long last. But the Nepal will never be the same again, no matter how many people summit Everest.

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