Late last month, a photo made international headlines showing a traffic jam of roughly 320 people clinging to a ridgeline en route to Mount Everest’s Hillary Step over 28,000 feet above sea level. So powerful was the image, in fact, that it singlehandedly ushered in a period of renewed media interest over a number of issues that have plagued the world’s tallest peak for decades – including overcrowding, lax permitting on the part of the Nepalese government, and the ethics of commercial efforts to cart high-paying unskilled clients to the top of Everest for their coveted photo op.
Indeed, Jon Krakauer bemoaned the bastardization of the climbing experience at Everest in his best-seller Into Thin Air back in 1997, though many purists would quickly point out that he was simultaneously complicit in that effort.
It’s unclear if the renewed media interest that has since waned will change things – although the Nepalese government has said it will re-evaluate its permitting procedures – but as Last Week Tonight host John Oliver is wont to do, in the feature story above he takes a deep dive into the calamity that the Everest climbing experience has become in recent decades.
“Climbing Mount Everest has somehow gone from being a rare feat of extraordinary skill to something that looks like the line at Trader Joe’s,” explains Oliver before launching into explanations about pollution and the ethics of climbers (largely wealthy ones from developed nations) relying heavily on local sherpas to do all the heavy lifting for their summit ambitions.
John Oliver even offers a novel solution to the chaos – a site where you can Photoshop your (fake) Everest summit and brag about it to friends.