12 reasons Chris Johns should cancel National Geographic’s Mt. Everest climb

To: Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic
Re: Why you should bring the NG Everest team home now

1. Four people have already died this week on Mt. Everest. There’s no point in adding to the death toll.

2. Especially dangerous conditions on Everest this year prompted Himalayan Experience, a highly respected guiding company, to pull all its climbers, guides, and sherpas off the mountain earlier this month. They get it. Why don’t you?

3. The thin mountain air seems to be giving team member and NGM writer Mark Jenkins some cognitive problems. In yesterday’s dispatch, Mark looks at the human death toll so far, and concludes that “the mountain always decides.” It’s as if Mark believes the fate of the National Geographic team — whether they live or die — is largely out of his hands (or yours). Which is silly, of course. It’s like someone “walking on railroad tracks through a dark mountain [with] trains [that] come roaring down the tracks at random times…” and then concluding: “But there’s nothing you can do. So you just keep walking….because the trains always decide. … If a friend of yours wandered the tracks at night and started blubbering this way, you wouldn’t underwrite and thereby enable his illness; instead, you’d get him professional help… wouldn’t you?

4. National Geographic may not grasp who is ultimately responsible here, but Outside magazine does:

Worth repeating: “… with only human error to blame”

5. There’s nothing noble about this expedition, or about mountaineering, as Mark Jenkins admitted weeks ago.

6. The “brotherhood of the rope” is a painfully thin thread upon which to hang this story.

7. One of the main rationales for the trip — to retrace the path of National Geographic’s 1963 expedition up the West Ridge of Mt. Everest — is no longer valid: Conrad Anker already canceled that leg of the climb.

8. Another rationale — the Mayo Clinic altitude study — is history: the scientists from Mayo have already gone home.

9. No iPad app — and no publishing business model — is worth the human risks you’re running with this media stunt. Because offering human sacrifices on mountaintops is a primitive ancient rite, not a modern one — isn’t it?

10. By romanticizing these sorts of trips, you’re encouraging them. There’s no way for you to sit back and say: We’re just neutral observers here. You, Chris, are The Enabler.

11. Your photo coverage of the expedition makes it look as though the climbers from National Geographic are alone on the mountain:

But we all know what’s really going on
thanks to Outside magazine:

Long lines up Everest

12. History has taught us that big crowds trying to scramble up Mt. Everest are a recipe for disaster. Please see:


Please stop this insanity, Chris.
Bring the National Geographic team home now.


  • Guest

    Can’t be done — too much money involved. (disgusted face)

    • When it comes to the safety of these men and women, money should be no object.

      • Guest

        Oh, Alan, that’s the OLD Geographic. The NEW Geographic cares only about money and one-upping the Discover Channel.

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  • Nkarlson

    I’d say the fault lies with the climbers, they are the ones choosing to risk their lives!

    • I agree, in part: The climbers make a choice… but National Geographic serves as the enabler: http://societymatters.org/2012/05/03/the-enabler/

      Thanks for stopping by….

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