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Mountaineers Are Taking a New Route Up Everest

They’ll forge their path sans sherpas or oxygen tanks

(Colin Monteath/ Hedgehog House/Minden Pictures/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Mount Everest is one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, and last year more people died trying to climb it than ever before. Now, a group of German and Canadian mountaineers has mapped a new route up the mountain—and they're attempting to climb it without Sherpas or oxygen tanks.

Climbers usually take one of two main routes up Everest, Mark Synnott reports for National Geographic: there have been 4,421 ascents up the mountain’s Southeast Ridge and 2,580 up the North Ridge. But given recent prohibitions against a portion of the most popular route, due to a series of deaths, climbers are looking for new ways to tackle the mountain that’s on every elite mountaineer’s bucket list.

Raphael Slawinski, who will scale the new route with Daniel Bartsch and David Goettler, tells Synnott that he was drawn to the idea of forging a new path, but that he also wanted to avoid the crowds on other routes. His team will climb Alpine style, which requires no guides or fixed ropes. Though the team will be vulnerable to the elements, Slawinski says they’ll relish the freedom of an ascent that doesn’t depend on a “fire escape” of pre-fixed ropes.

The team will tackle 50-degree inclines along the route, which will take them from 21,325 feet to over 26,000 feet along the mountain’s Northeast Face before joining the traditional North Ridge route. Slawinski tells Synnott that though he can’t predict what conditions they’ll face, he plans on climbing without ropes if possible—and if his body can face the climb without supplemental oxygen.

Mount Everest's popularity has raised concerns about everything from the use of helicopters to health concerns related to human waste left on the trail. And forging a new route doesn't necessarily solve any of those problems. But Slawinski insists that there’s still value in the ascent of a lifetime:

I think maybe some people don’t see the value of an activity like climbing. To some extent, I agree, because there is no social value to climbing. We are not making the world a better place. This is a very selfish activity. The only person who really benefits from this is me. I am doing this for myself, and I try to be quite honest about that. In the end, we get to choose how we spend our time and this is how I choose to spend the next couple of months.

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