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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Higher State of Grace -- Mt. Everest

I guess you have to make things with stained glass to notice, as I do, that moviemakers love to choose locations that have stained glass in the windows and doors, yet they will never ever let their film characters make any mention of those wonders of light and color.

Similarly, on our TV and monitor screens we frequently see images of people living in places that have highly noticeable mountain ranges for backdrops, yet the people who live and work all their lives in those favored places seem to act as if those towering, vivid backgrounds aren't even there.

Though having never had the itch to mountain=climb -- height bothers me, as does the idea of falling and breaking bones, and the mystique of climbing mountains just "because they're there" isn't enough -- I wonder how at least a few of those people living in such places could have resisted scaling those walls and peaks just once. and it is almost certain that actually not one of those heights that are in such clear view have gone unvisited at some time by the two-legged beings.

Whether it's a mountaintop, an Egyptian pyramid, a Ugandan jungle, or even just an ordinary road in a foreign country, people have a hard time resisting the temptation to leave a memento of their visit for others to see. When I was young, during the Second World War, it was extremely popular for American soldiers to leave the inscription "Kilroy was here" scrawled wherever they went, while later on, on the drives we made all over Canada, we often saw, usually inscribed on various rural surfaces with bright red paint a strange fox-like image. And then other mementos commonly left behind on excursions far from home -- as well as close by -- are what the British call "rubbish" but which we call "litter."

The highest mountain in the world has not been free from this, but because of the climactic conditions and because the Mt. Everest summit is a no-go zone even for vultures, those mementos also include a number of unburied bodies of climbers who didn't make it back, sometimes from many years ago. And also there is a very large amount of goodies like ropes, oxygen bottles, camp stoves, food wrappers, and the like. But obviously, since getting off that extreme mountaintop is a matter of barely staying ahead of the outstretched tentacles of death, much more traumatic than is the effort of getting up there, policing the area, as cleaning up the litter is called in the military, is the last thought on the average climber's mind, and that includes removing the remains of those victims of the mountain's so-called "Dead Zone."

That is just fine for the families of some of those who stayed behind on Everest. They say that their loved ones would have wanted it that way. But some of those bodies are close to the trail where they can be easily seen, and then there are all those other items, and finally the Nepalese have had enough of it. Whatever it might mean to people from other, wealthier countries, Everest is a sacred mountain to them, and they don't think it should be a graveyard or, even worse, a junkyard, and as T. Roosevelt liked to say, bully for them.

Therefore, if you click here, you will find a lot of interesting information on how pretty soon a team of 20 sherpas will climb to the summit, led by a guy who has already made that little trek seven times, and on their way back down they will pick up as much of what's been left behind as they can manage, including at least two of the bodies.

Quite noticeably, no foreigners who otherwise pay thousands of dollars apiece for the privilege of trying to make that climb have been included on the team, and that's fine because they would just get in the way.

More mountains that just Everest ought to be considered sacred enough that they don't really need to feel human footsteps. And it's a good thing that they're partly protected by the fact that mountain-climbing is largely confined to the more reckless and unthinking young. It helps the grand scheme of things considerably that the high mountains are safe from the elderly, because they, like those summits, presumably exist in a higher state of grace.


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