The ancient Greeks considered hubris a crime. Moderns perceive it as a profit center. On Everest, the price of that perception is too high.
Summiting the world’s tallest peak was once a heroic feat, accomplished only by a handful of accomplished, courageous and humble adventurers. Since Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the top in 1953, Everest has become, as described by in The Guardian by an experienced climber, a scene of “death, carnage, and chaos.”
Such is not the result of challenges presented by intense human exertion in the stingy oxygen at 29,029 feet. Instead, it is a consequence of commercial motives and the arrogance of people shielded by the riches of the 21st century.
This year’s climbing season has been one of the deadliest in history. Avalanches and bad weather as causes have given way to what amounts to rush-hour traffic.
A shocking photo taken May 23 of a solid line of red, yellow, and dark parkas stretching from the foreground to the mountain’s peak shows only some of the 200 who tried to reach the top that day. One who didn’t make it was still tangled in ropes and lying across the route, requiring climbers too weakened by the altitude and effort to climb over the body.
Everest has become just one more thing on a transactional bucket list for people who often have little appreciation for what they are doing. “If I can afford it, I have the right to do it, and you must make it happen.”
Hubris, actions against the divine order, fundamentally alters experiences. When the goal is the consummate joy of conquering any summit, substituting humility for hubris is the preferred route.