There are tragedies and then there are tragedies. Which is to say is there are true tragedies, where people are victims of circumstance, i.e., plane crashes, car crashes, victims of crimes, and so on. And then there are cases where the “victim” essentially volunteers for tragedy; i.e., skydiving, motor racing, and mountain climbing, which are pretty much like deliberately allowing a brown recluse spider to crawl up your nose, just to see what’d happen.
Such a case is currently playing out on Mount Everest.
You see, 17 climbers have died so far this year, trying to climb the world’s highest mountain. (Spoiler alert: Death is also probably what’d happen if you allowed a brown recluse spider to climb up your nose. I’m just saying …) But back to the subject: Officials say the reason so many people have died on Everest this year isn’t because of weather or other natural conditions. It’s because of a traffic jam near the summit on the Nepali side of Everest.
This year, Nepal has issued hundreds of permits to climb the mountain (at $11,000 a pop,) and that, along with a narrow window of good weather have combined to create a situation where hundreds of climbers are waiting in what’s known as “the death zone,” to be next in line to summit the mountain.
Not to belabor an analogy, but that really is like paying tens of thousands of dollars for a permit to allow a brown recluse spider to crawl up your nose, and being forced to wait in a place called the “death zone,” for the opportunity to do so.
Wait, it gets better …
Did you know most of the people who have died trying to climb Mount Everest are still on the mountain? (Well, their bodies are there. Their souls? Well, they’re probably in mountain-climber Purgatory, waiting in line in “the Hades zone,” to get a hearing with St. Peter. And just for the right pinch of irony, it’s probably right across the street from people-who-allow-spiders-to-crawl-up-their-noses Purgatory.)
At any rate, the bodies of most of the people who died trying to climb Mount Everest are still on the mountain, because people who climb the mountain are more interested in getting to the top than they are in retrieving corpses. (Do you blame them?)
I might contend there’s a Christian principle at play. You know: In the interest of allowing grieving families a proper funeral, you should retrieve the body of the guy who failed before you, before you try to summit the mountain yourself: “Do unto others,” and all that; but the fact remains there are scads of dead bodies on Mount Everest. Which means the people who climb the mountain sometimes stumble across the dead bodies, because when I say there are scads of dead bodies up there, I mean there are literally scads of dead bodies up there. (And you know how I detest the overuse of the world ‘literally.’)
So just to sum up, hundreds of people paid 11 large for the privilege to wait among the bodies of people who have died before them, in a place called “the death zone,” so they can say they’ve done what lots of people have already done.
No, really, isn’t that exactly like paying tens of thousands of dollars for a permit to allow a brown recluse spider to crawl up your nose — only you have to wait in line on a mountain of the bodies of all the people who died doing what you’re doing just this minute?
Do you ever get the feeling Darwin had it backward? That in zoos and nature reserves around the world, orangutans, chimpanzees, apes and gorillas are looking at the people gawking at them and thinking, “Yeah, ain’t no way I descended from THAT.”
(There isn’t a single chimpanzee corpse on Mount Everest. I’m just sayin’ …)