The Atlantic

Everest Is Over

With crowds, trash, and selfies at its summit, the once untamable mountain has lost its cultural power.
Source: Niranjan Shrestha / AP

Updated June 7 at 9:54 a.m.

Alex Honnold, the death-defying rock climber known for scaling thousand-foot granite walls without a rope, has a well-rehearsed rule for survival: The key to climbing, he likes to say, is knowing when to quit. This applies in the small sense, as in knowing when to go home for the day. But it also applies in the larger sense, as in knowing when to stop altogether.

This is a rule most adventure-minded people are not good at following—including rock climbers and other mountaineers, for whom the costs can be especially high. Take Mount Everest: Since the explosion of Himalayan mountaineering in the early 20th century, the world has swooned over the madness of climbers and their refusal to stop, even—or especially—in the face of great risk. Today, that infatuation can seem more pervasive than ever. Jarring this season have described climbers waiting in line at Everest’s peak while others take selfies.

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