Monetizing death with an “extreme reality show”

Nick Heil, a contributing editor at Outside magazine

“By now, everyone has seen the startling photos and video of the conga line of climbers ascending Everest earlier this month. If you’ve ever wondered what a human traffic jam looks like at the roof of the world, there it is, in all its goose-down glory. …

The growing number of climbers on Everest—most of them amateurs—and the increasing instability of the high-alpine environment, sum up the mountain’s enduring dilemma: How to manage its burgeoning popularity as the terrain becomes ever more dangerous. …

With Himex gone, a mere 700 or so climbers remain on the south side this season (additional teams are also climbing on the north side of the mountain, in Tibet). By May 23, the total body count was up to 11 on the season, barely shy of Everest’s deadlist year, 1996, when 15 people perished, including eight in one day. Currently, a second wave of 200 or so climbers are poised to make a summit bid on May 24-25. Not surprisingly, many observers and media outlets are already fluttering with morbid prognostications of additional carnage. The public isn’t infatuated with this place because it expects everything to turn out OK. …

The public isn’t infatuated with this place because it expects everything to turn out OK.

The proliferation of communication technology now commonplace on remote expeditions has taken Everest voyeurism to new heights. Photos, video, podcasts, lengthy written dispatches, 3D graphics, and GPS tracking tools flood websites each spring, beaming reports from the mountain, practically in real time. Far from serving as cautionary tales, warning wannabes from the dangerous slopes, these extreme reality shows only bolster the peak’s mystique, prestige, and appeal. Climbing Everest has long been a spectacle; now it’s a spectator sport, with no shortage of willing participants.

When the remaining teams make their final push in a few days, the world will be watching. Based on the way things have shaped up thus far, they probably won’t be disappointed.”

Read the whole thing here.



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