"Keep Climbing" with Sean Swarner & Jake Norton in Golden, CO at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum on March 28, 2008
Climbing Everest is tough work no matter how you slice it. As one who has been there, I can vouch for the fact that it's a long way up and a long way back down again.
The air is thin.
The weather's nasty.
It takes a lot out of you, and then asks for more.
Imagine, now, going to the top of Everest...with only one functioning lung. That's just what Sean Swarner did in 2002, and on all the rest of the Seven Summits.
Pretty amazing to say the least.
But, more amazingly, Sean didn't accomplish these feats just to boost his own ego, to check them off his personal list and retreat into his life once more. Instead, Sean did the Seven Summits to raise money and awareness about the very disease which took his lung and almost his life: cancer.
That wasn't enough, so Sean also founded the Cancer Climber Association, which inspires cancer survivors and patients to overcome the odds and keep climbing.
I first met Sean, and his business partner, Ben Metzker, on the Everest Rocks! trek last autumn. I was immediately inspired by Sean and Ben's spirit, dedication, and true desire to make a difference in the world.
I am honored to be able to help Sean, Ben, and CancerClimber this Thursday, when Sean and I will speak at a special event at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum to raise money for CancerClimber's “portable camp” that will make visits to children’s
hospitals in twenty-four cities across the country. Each stop will offer a
three-day camp for children impacted by cancer.
The event will feature hors d'ouvres, drinks, a silent auction, and a talk about Everest by both Sean and myself.
And, most importantly, all proceeds from the evening will go to support CancerClimber!
So, mark your calendars and go to the Colorado Mountain Club website to buy tickets...today!!
Here's the scoop:
When: March 28, 2008, 6:00 PM
Where: 710 Tenth Street, Golden, CO 80401 (see map) What: A fundraising event for the CancerClimber Association Tickets: Both general admission and VIP tickets are available
Remember...all proceeds go to support a great cause, and it will be a fun night! So, but your tickets today!
- Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.
On today's Weekend Edition on NPR, host Scott Simon shared an insightful and powerful commentary on the situation in Tibet, based on the emerging news of many deaths and violent riots in the Tibetan capitol, Lhasa, yesterday, and a state of complete lockdown in the city today, noting:
The protests of monks and others may not deliver freedom to Tibet
anytime soon, but freedom is an effervescent ideal that can't be
bottled up forever.
Audio of Mr. Simon's commentary will be available on the website in the next few hours. As always with Scott Simon, it is on target, bold, and emotional. Listen in!
If our democracy is to
flourish, it must have criticism; if our government is to function it must have
dissent. - Henry Commager
Nepal: Everest CLOSED May 1-10
According to the New York Times, Associated Press, and The Guardian, and many others, Nepal had officially caved to Chinese pressures and imposed its own ban on climbers going above 17,600 foot Khumbu Basecamp from May 1 - May 10, 2008, to avoid the potential for protests while Chinese climbers carry the Olympic torch to the summit from the Tibetan side of the mountain.
The implications of this ban reach far beyond the disruption of the climbing season on Everest. Sure, some climbers will be out of luck, their plans thwarted and summit hopes dashed. More importantly on that micro scale is the livlihood of countless Nepali and Tibetan support staff - climbing Sherpa, Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Gurung, and Magar cooks and porters, ethnic Tibetan yak herders and climbers - who will not have the lucrative Everest business to prop up their annual earnings.
And, more importantly, as I mentioned in my earlier post, it shows how nervous China is about any action marring its rosy pre-Olympic persona.
Unfortunately, what China does not see is that the Olympic spirit - the spirit they hope to embody and embrace for these upcoming games - does not ask for perfection. Rather, the Olympic spirit is one which asks for the greatest of effort to be the best one can be, to accept our shortcomings and strive to overcome them.
There has yet to be an Olympic host whose nation was the embodiment of perfection, for all nations have their imperfections, their mistakes and sad histories. In this regard, China is no different.
Rather than waging a war against dissent, against those speaking out for change, in an effort to sanitize the Games and the attitudes of those visitors who attend them, China could make a far stronger move by acknowledging its failings, be them social, environmental, political, or otherwise.
According to the China Daily, attendees of the upcoming games might be greeted by quotations from one of China's greatest and most well-known people, Confucius. Perhaps China would do well to read some of his thoughts:
An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.
Without reasonable explanation, the Chinese authorities have officially close the north, or Tibetan, side of Mount Everest to all expeditions this spring, save for their own Olympic Torch relay to the summit.
And, in a move of political coercion, they are also trying to get the Nepali government to do the same and close the south, or Nepal, side of the mountain.
One can only believe that this unprecedented move comes as a knee-jerk reaction to the Free Tibet protests on Everest last spring (see YouTube video here), and a deep fear that the same would happen again this spring, threatening to spark discourse on not only the issue of Tibet, but also on China's other minority groups, such as the Uygur people of Xinjiang Province.
Official Chinese document explaining Everest closure
The Chinese government denies this, officially stating their reasons for the closure as:
Concern of heavy climbing activities, crowded climbing
routes and increasing environmental pressures will cause
potential safety problems in Qomalangma [Everest] areas.
But, as MountEverest.net points out, numbers on the Tibetan side of the mountain were actually down this year compared to previous seasons due to expeditions obeying China's demand that teams be nationally oriented and apply for permits months ahead of time to allow for adequate political screening. So, with numbers down already, the argument of concern for safety and the environment of Everest falls short.
Also clouding the official reasoning is not only the demand that Nepal close its side of the mountain,
Cho Oyu: Closed as well
but also the closure of nearby, the world's 6th highest peak lying some 10 miles to the west of Everest.
With these two additions, it becomes painfully apparent that China's concerns are not for safety of climbers, nor for protection of the local environment, but rather to eliminate the risk of their historic Olympic torch relay to the Top of the World being tainted by someone holding a "Free Tibet" (or "Free Xinjiang") banner in the background.
And, China's recent actions in Tibet and elsewhere show their trepidation about protests marring their image before the Olympics. According to Radio Free Asia and several other news outlets, on Tuesday Chinese authorities and armed police used teargas to break up the second day of protests by monks in Tibet's capitol city, Lhasa. Additionally, the Chinese government has made claims about terrorist threats to the Olympic games...claims which many see as a smokescreen for Beijing's increased crackdown on the Uyghurs.
And Nepal - who relies heavily on Chinese support and trade for its survival as well as on Everest climbing and expeditions - has not completely caved in, but has compromised, allowing climbing expeditions for this year but keeping people from going to the summit when the torch is making its historic run to the top.
In the immediate timeframe, it is climbers, expeditions, and support teams who will suffer. Expedition leaders like Russel Brice - who brings expeditions to the Tibetan side of Everest every year - and Eric Simonson, who has been frantically reorganizing an Everest Basecamp trek he had booked. The clients of these leaders, who have planned and paid for their trips and alotted the time to do them, will also be left out in the cold. And, of course, the Nepali and Tibetan support teams, from yak herders to high-altitude Sherpas and Nepali climbers, will be out of a season's worth of work, which is a bigger issue than all the others combined.
But, longer term, China's decisions will impact China itself. Sure, in the short-term they may succeed in sanitizing the issues going on at home, the political angst and dubious human rights situations. But, long term, China's covering up of its imperfections rather than admitting them and working hard to deal with them, will only succeed in showing its desire to pretend.
Greatness comes from striving for perfection while simultaneously admitting our shortcomings and working to correct them.
What do you think about the Chinese decision to close Everest this spring? Please comment below.
- Jake Norton
is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational
speaker from Colorado.
Ben Ayers - Moderator - An amazing guy, Ben is one of the few non-Nepalis in the world to have actually worked for a season carrying loads as a Himalayan porter. His experiences led him to found Porters' Progress, a non-profit dedicated to empowering the porters of Nepal. Currently, Ben is the Nepal Project Coordinator for the dZi Foundation.
The event will be held at the Speakeasy Movie Theater in Breckenridge at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $20 in advance, and $30 at the door. All proceeds will go to the dZi Foundation's Revitalize a Village project in Gudel, Nepal.
For more info and to reserve tickets, contact Shannon Galpin at (970) 376-0754, or visit the Mountain2Mountain website.
- Jake Norton
is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational
speaker from Colorado.
As any of you who visit The MountainWorld Blog know, ethics on Everest is a very important topic to me and one I've written about at length here and elsewhere. From the tragedies of 1996 (made famous by Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air) to the recent incidents involving David Sharp and Lincoln Hall in 2006 and Usha Bista in 2007, ethical dilemmas continue to play out on the slopes of Mount Everest.
And, sadly, as more people flock to the mountain each year, things will likely get worse before they get better.
In 2004, I was on Everest for my 5th expedition, this time with my good friend Dave Hahn. It was a busy season and ours was a small team amongst armies of big expeditions, but early on we met a great guy, Michael Kodas, who was there - like Krakauer 8 years earlier - to climb the mountain and document the expedition for his home paper, the Hartford Courant.
And, again like Krakauer's trip in 1996, Michael's trip would become quite...interesting. I won't go into all the details as I only know a shadow of them.
However, the expedition sparked Michael to delve into the subject of ethics on Mount Everest, and the
issues its recent popularity have brought to the fore. Several years of work and research have finally yielded a book - High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed. And, if the web chatter is true (which I'm quite sure it is), it will be a great read and one which will spark needed dialogue about the fate of climbing in the high Himalaya.
Michael is now on a book tour, and will be coming to Colorado this week for two engagements where he will speak and sign copies of the book. Be sure to come by one of these locations and hear for yourself about High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed: