Senior Editor

The Everest climbing route has officially become a haven for kooks. And it’s a two-sided shit show. On the one hand, government officials, porters, guides and every native in between is doing everything they can to skim money off the top for permits, fees or even taking a high-altitude dump. On the other, people have become so obsessed with climbing the world’s tallest peak that they’ll do anything in their power–even cheat the system or obviously, risk death–to make it to the top and place that trophy on the mantle.

This week, a South African, who’d apparently been training in Aspen, Colorado, was busted by Nepali officials for trying to sneak past the permitting system. Filmmaker Ryan Sean Davy was caught hiding out in a small cave off the beaten path, hoping to avoid detection so he could make a run at the summit.

From his Facebook page:

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“This news is probably going to make a lot of people upset with me and I really hope you’ll all forgive me. I’m willing to be as accountable as I know how but my Everest expedition has taken a very bad turn. I am going to be honest in saying that when I arrived at Base Camp it became evident that I didn’t have nearly enough money for a solo permit because of hidden costs and even if I did they would have declined it because I had no previous mountaineering experience. I was ashamed that I couldn’t afford the permit after all the help, preparation and what everybody had done for me during my training, it would have been a total embarrassment to turn around and accept defeat because of a piece of paper. So I took a chance and spent the little money I had on more gear to climb and practice on the surrounding peaks for acclimatizing in preparing for a stealth entry onto Everest.

The permit would have cost Davy around $11,000 (not a typo) and he’s now being fined some $22,000 and could face jail time. His passport has been revoked. From all reports, especially one particularly revealing piece in the Aspen Times, Davy is a nice person (he actually begs friends not to set up a GoFundMe account to pay for his expenses). He was just incredibly naive, as he hoped to summit without a guide, porters and without oxygen to avoid the costs (an oxygen tank is around $500, more than most Nepalis make in a year). It’s a rich man’s mountain. Which is kind of messed up.

Everest has seen a rash of bizarre incidents lately as it becomes ever more crowded, including an Indian couple that tried to photoshop themselves on the summit to gain notoriety in their home country. The mountain creates a lusting unlike any other (an 85-year-old man just perished on the peak). And that undoubtedly is the result of pop-culture media coverage more than anything else.

And having spent significant time in the Himalayas, I can’t blame locals for charging a truckload of money to wanton tourists hoping to summit. Especially when three-quarters of them aren’t up to the task, which puts everyone at risk. As a longtime whitewater paddler, I hiked all over the country with a plastic kayak during three separate seasons. It’s a much less crowded and less popular pursuit. But you need a porter. And you need to pay them and treat them like family. You kind of become a team as you work with them on extended trips. I carried the minimal gear, uber minimal—paddle, sprayskirt, protective top. The porter packed the kayak.

On one particular occasion, on one particularly heinous hike into a remote river drainage, a set of porters revolted on us, sitting on our boats near the water, sweating and swearing at us that they intended to increase the price mid-expedition. We gladly paid the nominal increase. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Nepalis are scratching for everything they can get. Dealing with earthquakes, civil war, extreme poverty, you can’t help but side with them, especially as you march all over the country, colonial-like, running rivers.

It’s about the relationship. Man.

I imagine the kookdom will continue unabated on Everest, because of that romantic hold the mountain has upon the naive and unaware. It has become thus.



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