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The Allure of Everest

The Nepalese government recently granted a climbing permit for a Japanese climber to climb Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. In the past few months, climbing was put on hold in Nepal, at least for the bigger 8,000 m+ peaks. After the plunge of tourism due to the May earthquake, this re-opening of the mountain may mean an increase in tourists for the mountain’s fall climbing season – which is good for the Nepali economy.

But recently, Everest has become more a famous name than actual, tangible feat to be accomplished, let alone an actual travel destination. And the media are eating it up: Take the newly released film titled “Everest,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Kiera Knightley. So far, it’s made $101.7 million at the box office, en route to even more after this weekend.

The name “Everest” has become codified as some holy grail of climbing – mainly because it is. It is literally the tallest thing in the sky – even the Everest movie’s poster has the line: “ “Human beings aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747.”

I asked a fellow climber about Everest, and the first thing he thought of when someone mentions the mountain.

“I think of Into Thin Air – that book by Krakauer. How crazy it would be to climb something that big.”

And that’s a perfect sign of how commercial “Everest” has become. Krakauer’s book sparked an interest in climbers and adventurers alike with the Himalaya. With the increased name recognition, Nepal has seen more tourists in the past two decades coming to bag peaks and summit mountains. Not that this is bad at all – in fact, the tourism sector has fueled Nepal’s economy.

But, for the time being, climbers might have to wait to experience the magic of the world’s highest peak. The fall climbing season in the Himalaya is much more cold and snowy than the spring (the months of March-May). On top of the already sluggish climbing tourism in Nepal currently, this harsh fall season might be another barrier to the tourism sector. We’ll have to wait until Spring to see how truly magnetic this 29,000-foot peak is.

I asked my friend if he ever sees himself climbing Everest in the future.

“I don’t actually see myself doing it, but I’d like to. I love the idea of it.”

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