With Mt. Everest being front and center in the news as of late due to the viral photo we all have seen, I figured there was no better time to post this article I wrote a little while back.
Just because your body went up a cumulative 29,029 feet does NOT even come close to the same level achievement and accomplishment that comes with actually summiting Mount Everest. I have not summited the tallest mountain in the world, but I can say with high certainty that neither did you. It takes so much time and effort to accomplish this feat, yet I cannot count the number of time’s I’ve heard or read someone claiming their accomplishment is “like summiting Everest from sea level.” No it’s not. Hiking up your local, 290 foot hill 100 times or walking up 2,900 flights of stairs is not comparable, in the slightest, to summiting the tallest mountain in the world. At no point, for most of those “comparative” activities, were their bodies in a position where they could have died in the many ways Mount Everest could claim you.
Take this topic written up for a STAVA blog post titled, “The Ultimate Climbing Challenge: Everesting.” Where 43 cyclists set out to climb the elevation of Mt. Everest in one day. And one savage rider, Kristof Alergaert, completed double that challenge. That’s 58,000′ of climbing in one ride. All of these accomplishments are insane! And for anyone who’s done a single day in the mountains or hills knows 1,000′ feet of climbing is very challenging. So why don’t they just let their activity stand by itself?
Hiking and climbing your way to the top of Mt. Everest is the only thing that is comparable to hiking and climbing Mt. Everest. The athletes and clients who’ve accomplished such a feat dealt with the dangers that high-altitude present, life-threatening weather condition, remote Himalayan terrain, and of course the logistical issues and cost of actually stepping foot on the mountain. Doing any activity at high elevation can stop you in your tracks. Sea level to 10K can turn you into an out-of-shape potato. An acclimatized athlete will still struggle going up to 14K or 15K. So you can imagine how ridiculous it is to compare any activity done at sea level going up and down an 800′ hill over and over again is. Base camp alone, sits at 17.6K’, and the so called, “death zone” sits at 26,000′. The oxygen is already so thin starting your ascent from base camp of Everest, which decreases exponentially as you increase in elevation. That means, every foot of vertical gain, the challenge of climbing everest gets harder and harder (and obviously more dangerous).
Lapping the same mountain or hill, however many times it takes to reach the vertical ascent of Everest is insane. It’s an incredible physical achievement. But you don’t see people saying, “I just road 300miles today, which is like riding across the state of Pennsylvania.” No, people just say they road 300 miles and where ever they road at. But why, when it comes to vertical gain, do we have to compare everything to everest. Mountaineers that ascend Washington’s icon summit of Mt. Rainier don’t say they climbed half the height of Everest. Maybe its because when someone ascends something real, it can stand by itself, no need for comparison. But it’s outside the mountains that we feel the need to compare our feats to something real, like a challenging mountain, like Everest.
But with this news coverage lately, there is one thing I think we can all agree is comparable to Everest. And that is standing in line, waiting. With a shortened summit window due poor weather, nearly 800 mountaineers (~300 clients + ~500 guides and sherpas), were forced to make their summit push on the same day. This lead to nearly everyone standing in line, waiting until the climbers ahead of them navigate the terrain or making slow transitions on the fixed lines. This lead to climbers using up more oxygen than planned while they waited, costing some clients their lives. A terrible situation to find yourself in, but it seems like it’s the cost of business on the most popular mountain in the world.
From now on, let’s let our achievements speak for themselves. Comparison is the thief of joy, so rather than say my (insert accomplishment) is like climbing Mt. Everest 1, (2 or 3) times, say it for what it is. You set out to hike or ride your bike to climb 29,029′ and you accomplished it. It took you so many hours and you covered this many miles in the process. That is worth of praise all on its own. Be proud of that! And if you want to climb the vertical gain of Everest from sea level (unrealistic), then fly into a port city of India like Balasore, walk the 900km to Kathmandu, join up with one of the many expedition headed to basecamp, and hire a guide to get you up to the summit!
Then you can compare whatever the hell you want to Summiting Mount Everest!