Print Column: If Everything Is Special Then Nothing Is Special


MINOT, N.D. — There’s a waiting line at the top of Mount Everest these days.

Summiting our planet’s tallest peak was, once upon a time, one of the high water marks of human achievement.

Now it has all the sex appeal of waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Only with less oxygen.

“Climbers were pushing and shoving to take selfies,” the New York Times reported recently in an article making the top of the mountain seem like a tourist trap. “The flat part of the summit, which he estimated at about the size of two Ping-Pong tables, was packed with 15 or 20 people. To get up there, he had to wait hours in a line, chest to chest, one puffy jacket after the next, on an icy, rocky ridge with a several-thousand foot drop.”

Climbing Mt. Everest is still a dangerous and expensive undertaking — the Times reports that 11 people have died so far this climbing season, with some of those deaths attributed to overcrowding — so why do it?

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