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Everest: The Summit of Death, Not Dreams

Mount Everest, towering at 8,848 meters (29,029 ft), is the highest mountain on Earth. The desire to reach the summit is a powerful motivator, fuelled by a thirst for adventure, a yearning to push human limits, and for some, the allure of social media fame.

Mount Everest: The Summit of Death, Not Dreams by Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury AJR
First Published Jun 12, 2024, 1:49 PM IST

For many, Mount Everest stands as the pinnacle of human achievement, the ultimate test of courage and endurance. The dream of conquering this behemoth has captivated hearts for generations. However, the reality of Everest is far from the romanticized image projected in movies and documentaries. Everest is a treacherous mountain, and the pursuit of this “dream” for the debutante mountaineer can turn into a deadly nightmare. This essay implores you, the ambitious youth of India, to carefully consider the immense dangers of climbing Everest before risking your life for a fleeting moment of glory.

The Deadly Allure of Everest

Mount Everest, towering at 8,848 meters (29,029 ft), is the highest mountain on Earth. The desire to reach the summit is a powerful motivator, fuelled by a thirst for adventure, a yearning to push human limits, and for some, the allure of social media fame. Travel agencies and commercial expedition companies have capitalized on this desire, making Everest more accessible than ever before. Unfortunately, this increased accessibility has come at a terrible cost.

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Mount Everest: The Summit of Death, Not Dreams by Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury AJR

The Chilling Realities of Climbing Everest

Everest is not just a mountain; it’s a brutal and unforgiving environment. The “death zone” above 8,000 meters (26,247 ft) is a place where the human body begins to deteriorate rapidly. Thin air, with only one-third the oxygen available at sea level, makes even simple tasks Herculean efforts. Temperatures can plummet to -60°C (-76°F), and fierce winds can whip up blizzards that turn the mountain into a deadly labyrinth. These harsh conditions have claimed the lives of hundreds of climbers. In 2019, a record number of eleven climbers died on Everest in a single week, starkly highlighting the mountain's unforgiving nature. This year five have died, including one Indian.

The Unseen Costs of Climbing Everest

The dangers of Everest go beyond the immediate threats of the mountain itself. Many expeditions prioritize reaching the summit over climber safety. Large groups can bottleneck at critical points on the climb, creating delays that expose climbers to the dangers of the death zone for extended periods. Inexperienced climbers are sometimes pushed beyond their limits in the relentless pursuit of the summit. The commercialization of Everest has also led to the exploitation of Sherpas, the high-altitude guides who play a critical role in expeditions. Sherpas risk their lives to fix ropes, carry equipment, and assist climbers, often for a fraction of the pay their Western counterparts receive.

A Different Kind of Challenge

The true spirit of mountaineering is about the challenge, the camaraderie, and the deep respect for the mountain. It’s about testing your own limits and developing the skills and experience necessary to navigate the unforgiving terrain. Everest should not be a trophy to be collected by the rich and reckless. There are countless other mountains that offer equally challenging and rewarding climbs without the same level of danger. Focusing on these mountains allows you to hone your mountaineering skills and develop a deeper appreciation for the beauty and dangers of the natural world.

The Legacy You Want to Leave Behind

The young people of India are a powerful force, brimming with potential and a yearning to make their mark on the world. There are countless ways to achieve greatness, to push your limits, and to make a positive impact. Climbing Everest does not have to be your defining moment. Consider the legacy you want to leave behind. Do you want to be remembered as a courageous adventurer who inspired others, or as a cautionary tale, a statistic lost in the unforgiving embrace of Everest?

Invest in Life, Not Death

The money saved from not climbing Everest can be invested in your future, in your education, in pursuing your passions, or in helping others. The world needs more doctors, engineers, artists, and entrepreneurs, people who will solve problems and make the world a better place. It doesn’t need more reckless thrill-seekers who gamble their lives for a fleeting moment of glory.

Everest is not a test of your worth

There is a world of opportunity waiting for you, young people of India. Don’t be seduced by the empty allure of Everest. Choose a challenge that will test your limits and make you grow, a challenge that celebrates life, not one that courts death. The mountains will still be there, waiting to be climbed, when you are ready to take them on with the experience, skill, and respect they deserve. Let your Everest be a mountain you can conquer and return from, a summit story that celebrates not just reaching the top, but the incredible journey that led you there.

The Price of an Empty Peak

In today's age of social media, the summit of Everest has become a coveted backdrop for an Instagram post. But consider the price of that picture. The exorbitant costs of climbing Everest, often exceeding $60,000, could be used for so much more – pursuing your education, starting a business, or traveling the world and experiencing new cultures. Don't be seduced by the illusion of grandeur; a filtered photo on Everest doesn't define your worth.

Everest: A Challenge Conquered?

The pioneering spirit of mountaineering – the thrill of uncharted territory, the self-reliance required to navigate treacherous terrain – is largely absent on Everest today. Commercialization has transformed it into a crowded, fixed-rope route where success heavily relies on the expertise of Sherpas. These remarkable individuals, risking their lives for a fraction of the pay, are the true heroes of Everest. Are you truly a mountaineer if you're essentially piggybacking on their skill and experience to reach the summit?

Tourists on Top of the World

The very essence of mountaineering is about testing your own limits, pushing yourself physically and mentally. Climbing Everest as a paying client removes that challenge. You become a tourist, not a mountaineer, relying on a team of professionals to manage logistics, navigate dangers, and essentially pave the way for your summit photo. The true accomplishment lies in the journey, not a fleeting moment at the top achieved through another's sacrifice.

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A Word to Potential Sponsors

Many young climbers seek sponsorships to fund their Everest expeditions. Before you lend your support, consider the ethical implications. Are you promoting a genuine passion for mountaineering or bankrolling a dangerous vanity project? There are countless talented individuals with innovative ideas who could benefit from your support. Invest in those who will push the boundaries of exploration and discovery, not those seeking fleeting fame on a mountain already well-trodden.

A Call to Action

The allure of Everest remains strong, but we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others about the true cost of this climb. Share this information with your friends and family who may be considering Everest. Support responsible mountaineering practices that prioritize safety and respect for the mountain and its people. Advocate for stricter regulations on climber experience and group sizes on Everest.

Beyond Everest: A World of Mountains Awaits

India is blessed with a wealth of stunning and challenging mountains, peaks that offer a taste of adventure without the same level of danger. The Himalayas beckon, offering fantastic climbs Kumaon, Garhwal, Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, mountains that will test your skills and leave you breathless with their beauty. Focus on honing your mountaineering skills and experience on these peaks before considering Everest, if at all.

Embrace the Journey, Not Just the Destination

The true reward of mountaineering lies not just in reaching the summit but in the journey itself. The camaraderie forged with fellow climbers, the breathtaking panoramas that unfold with each step, and the deep sense of accomplishment in overcoming difficult terrain are all experiences that Everest cannot monopolize. There is a whole world of mountains waiting to be explored, each with its own unique challenges and rewards.


Mount Everest is a powerful symbol, a testament to the audacity of human ambition. However, the pursuit of this “dream” can come at a terrible cost. For the young people of India, with a future full of promise, there are better ways to channel your ambition, your courage, and your spirit of adventure. Choose a challenge that celebrates life, not one that courts death. The mountains will still be there, waiting for you, when you are truly prepared to face them. Remember that going up is optional, but coming down is compulsory. Let your Everest be a mountain that inspires you, that tests your limits, and most importantly, a mountain you can climb and return from, a story of triumph that celebrates not just reaching the top, but the incredible journey that took you there.

About the author:-

Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury,VSM an esteemed Indian mountaineer, has had a profound impact on the field of adventure sports. His career highlights include leading the first Indian Air Force expedition to Mount Everest in 2005, a pioneering achievement. Chowdhury's extensive experience spans numerous expeditions in the Himalayas, including successful climbs of Mount Jogin, Kamet, and Satopanth. Post-retirement, he has been a key figure in the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and the UIAA, promoting mountain safety and training. Chowdhury was awarded the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014. He is currently Vice President on the UIAA (International Federation for Mountaineering)

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