Is Mount Everest getting crowded?

A photograph shared by Nirmal Purja, a Nepalese mountaineer, showing hundreds of mountaineers queuing up to summit Everest recently turned the world’s attention to the crowding at the peak. Amongst the many who summitted Everest this year, was 42-year-old Rahul Inamdar from Pune who scaled the mountain on May 23. “There are no words to describe what it feels like standing at the top. Goosebumps that refuse to go away do explain a lot though,” grins Inamdar.

A mechanical engineer, Inamdar began his journey from the Base Camp on May 18. His final ascent to the peak from Camp IV began on May 22 at 5 pm, and almost 12 hours later, he was standing at the top. Inamdar and the sherpa accompanying him were the first to summit on May 23. Devoid of traffic at that time, they were able to spend over 45 minutes at the peak. “It was only during the descent that I encountered traffic from the peak to the Balcony which is situated at a height of 8,400 metres. I passed over 80 people in that stretch.”

A narrower ‘good weather window’, a record 381 permits issued by the Nepal government and the fact that every hiker had to be accompanied by a sherpa were some of the reasons for the traffic on Everest this year. Inamdar says that May is the only month when strong winds die down, making it suitable for summitting.

Moving mountains Evening view of the mountain

Moving mountains Evening view of the mountain   | Photo Credit: DanielPrudek

“This year, the good weather window was smaller than usual, due to which there were a lot of people trying to reach the summit at the same time and hence the crowd,” he says. He adds that every year, the ‘good weather window’ lasts for at least 10 days. However, this year, it was just four to five days.

Inamdar sees no harm in giving hundreds the permit to ascend, although he agrees that longer waiting periods in the notorious ‘Death Zone’ (a term used by mountaineers to refer to a place higher than 8,000 metres) can prove fatal.

“Waiting in line to the summit is dangerous as climbers are exposed to extended periods in areas with dangerously-low oxygen levels. They are also exhausting fuel in their oxygen cylinders and exposing themselves to frostbite and organ failure,” he adds.

Climb every mountain
  • Mount Satopanth, India
  • Standing tall at 7,075 metres, Satopanth is one of the prominent peaks of the Garhwal range of Himalayas. It is famous for pre-Everest expeditions as it boasts of high altitude and a tough climb. The best time to scale the mountain is late May to early June and late September to mid-October.
  • Mera Peak, Nepal
  • Mera Peak stands in Nepal’s Sagarmatha Zone. Consisting of three summits, the mountain that is 6,476 metres tall is classified as a trekking peak. It is a straightforward ascent for experienced climbers with the main hurdle being acclimatisation to the high altitude. Late April and early May are preferred for trekking on the mountain.
  • Nun Kun, India
  • This consists of a pair of Himalayan peaks, Mount Nun and Mount Kun, standing at 7,135 metres and 7,077 metres respectively. A trenched plateau extending to about four kilometres separates the two. Crevasse glaciers, knife-edge cliffs and vertical ice walls make this pair difficult to conquer. An expedition to these peaks puts in use technical climbing with the help of equipment like fixed ropes, ice axe, snow pickets and anchors. The climbing period for these peaks extends from June to August.
  • Mount Stok Kangri, India
  • Standing at 6,154 metres, this mountain is the highest in the Stok Range of the Himalayas. It has become a popular trekking peak due to its non-technical nature. Though non-technical, the high altitude of the mountain demands appropriate physical fitness and mental preparation. Late July and August are the ideal time for scaling this peak.

While Inamdar dreamed of Everest as being sheets of white, the reality stood a little different. The littering on Everest has punctuated the pristine white of the snowcapped peaks with reds, browns and blues. “Mountaineering equipment, tattered tents, human waste, wrappers of energy bars and plastic bottles are some of the widely-found garbage,” he adds. Doing their bit, Inamdar and his sherpa collected over eight kilograms of garbage during their descent.

Though he had trekked to Everest Base Camp in 2018, this was Inamdar’s first attempt to scale Everest. Recalling the challenges, he says, “Apart from the mental weight of climbing a mountain, the fact that one is operating with much less oxygen in the blood, gear that slows you down and little sleep makes Everest hard to conquer.” He believes that his prior experiences of scaling mountains helped him conquer Everest. “You know what to do when your leg gets stuck in snow or how to avoid frostbite. These small things play a significant role.”

Rahul Inamder summited Mount Everest on May 23

Rahul Inamder summited Mount Everest on May 23   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Inamdar’s quest to conquer Mount Everest goes back to 2013 when he heard a panel of mountaineers sharing their experiences of summitting Everest. “By then I had trekked a few hills around Pune and enjoyed the experience. I also tried basic and advanced rock climbing at the Guardian Giripremi Institute Of Mountaineering.”

His first summit was in 2017 when he conquered Mount Stok Kangri which stands at 6,152 metres. He then went on to trek up Mount Nagarjuna twice and Mount Imja Tse also known as Mount Island Peak.

“The adrenaline rush and the sense of achievement that one has when they stand at the top of a mountain is addictive. Probably that is what kept me going.”

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 7:46:36 PM |

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