By Aubrey Oman
Dozens of climbers dot the largest mountain in the world in attempt to conquer the crown first summited 50 years ago today.
Mount Everest, located between Nepal and Tibet, stands as a 29,000-foot monument to climbers across the world.
Everest was formed about 60 million years ago and has claimed the lives of hundreds of climbers. Since the first successful climb by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, more than 1,200 climbers have reached the top, and about 175 have died trying. About 120 corpses remain on Everest, according to www.mnteverest.net.
Avalanches claim more lives than any other disaster on the mountain, although there are other factors contributing to the 5 percent fatality rate, according to www.mounteverest.net. Some of those include altitude dangers, frostbite, hypothermia and snow blindness.
For some climbers, Everest is just the beginning to a lifetime of journeys. Willi Unsoeld, a member of the 1963 American expedition, is setting his sights higher than Everest.
“You”ve climbed the highest mountain in the world. What”s left?” he stated on www.mnteverest.net. “It”s all downhill from there. You”ve got to set your sights on something higher than Everest.”
Becoming qualified to climb Everest doesn”t come without years of preparation. Provo Quarry manager Shirley Boynton, a 23-year-old Orem resident, has been climbing for three years and continues to progress in her skills.
“For me, I started in the gym so it made it almost like working out at first,” she said. “The more you do it, the more you learn there”s so much technique involved.”
Boynton said the thrill of climbing is “being able to challenge yourself. You”re not really competing against anyone but your own skill level. You”re just trying to do better and learn more and work harder, just get a harder grade and a harder grade.”
There are six steps to progress toward Everest climbing adequacy, according to www.mnteverest.net:
* Take a course in rock climbing.
* Practice everywhere.
* Take a class in aid climbing.
* Take a class in ice climbing.
* Join a guided expedition to a high mountain.
* Make your own expedition on an easy mountain.
Training for Everest can take years.
“It takes up your whole life for a couple of years just to prepare for it: learning all about the altitude and how you survive up there; getting all your equipment you need and the group you”re going to go with; getting the training,” Boynton said. “Too life-threatening for me.”
Training also requires a certain diet. Often, climbers choose a diet high in protein to build muscle, Boynton said. Some climbers use weight training.
“They will take three months off to build certain muscle groups that you”ll use a lot in climbing, and then they”ll come back and be a lot stronger,” she said.
Although Boynton doesn”t have a certain diet, she said her exercising makes it easier to climb.
Indoor climbing is just the beginning for Boynton. She has explored Maple Canyon, Rock Canyon and American Fork. She plans on climbing with her husband in Zion and Yosemite national parks.
“Once you start going outside, it”s a completely different world,” Boynton said. “For me, the hardest part is that you figure it out on your own. A lot of people will climb the same route differently because of their size or how strong they are. So with not having a marked route to follow, you can use whatever holds you want, and you have to find the best way for you to hold on to them and to work your feet. It was a lot more thinking and a lot more fun because you get to be outside in the canyon.”
Everest can take months to climb, and even easier climbs can be time consuming.
“Each canyon has a different style of climbing,” Boynton said. “Sometimes it takes a day or two to figure out how to climb a certain kind of rock or a certain canyon. So you”ve always learned something and had a good experience.”
Climbing Everest doesn”t come without a cost, averaging $25,000 a trip, according to www.mnteverest.net. Some climbers pay the fees themselves; others find means to raise funds.
Beginning climbers can purchase gear for about $150.
“For starting I would just get the cheapest stuff and get the idea,” Boynton said. “Wear them out and get something nice if you”re going to stick with it.”
Everest holds a strong history. It received its English name after the British surveyor Sir George Everest, who was the first person to record the height and location in 1865.
In Nepal, Everest is called Sagarmatha, meaning goddess of the sky; in Tibet Everest is called Chomolungma, meaning mother goddess of the universe.
The youngest person to ascend Everest was 15-year-old Temba Tsheri in 2001; the oldest person was 70-year-old Yuichiro Miura only a week ago.
Erik Weihenmeyer was the first legally blind person to scale the mountain. He received Congressional recognition in June 2001 for climbing Everest with his disability and setting an example of reaching goals to people with disabilities.
“Erik”s accomplishment sends a strong message to all Americans that regardless of disability or tall obstacles, anything is possible,” reported Congressman Jim Langevin, Rhode Island-D, in a news release.
Weihenmeyer has also successfully climbed Mount McKinley, Mount Kiliminjaro, Ama Dablam, Aconcagua, Polar Circus and Vinson Massif.
Although Everest is a deadly adventure, many people have conquered the journey.
“We agreed that this was going to be no ordinary climb,” stated John Hunt, leader of the 1953 expedition, on www.mnteverest.net. “For the time being, Everest was rather more than a mountain.”
In 1975, Junko Tabei became the first woman to climb Everest.
“Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is the most important,” she stated on www.mnteverest.net. “This willpower you cannot buy with money or be given by others … it rises from your heart.”
Tabei isn”t the only woman who has completed the climb. Stacy Allison was the first American woman to summit Everest.
“The end of the ridge and the end of the world … then nothing but that clear, empty air,” she stated on www.mnteverest.net. “There was nowhere else to climb. I was standing on top of the world.”