If ‘anyone’ can climb Everest, where does that leave Everest?

In the 1980s, a business executive named Dick Bass became the first person in the world to climb all seven summits. 

Bass was the owner of Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah and an early investor in Vail Resorts, so he was heavily involved in the industry of the outdoors. But he was not a likely candidate for success: He did not consider himself to be a climber, and he even bragged about how little training he did. 

But he had willpower, money, and time, all of which outweighed his inexperience. He also had charisma, essential for endearing himself to professional climbers who could lead him to the top at a time when no-one was even thinking about running guided trips there.

According to Will Cockrell, author of Everest, Inc.: The Renegades and Rogues Who Built an Industry at the Top of the World, everything changed when Bass reached the summit. And the whole Everest guiding industry has him to thank for sparking the idea almost 40 years ago.

Cockrell’s book is a fascinating history of how the Everest guiding industry has grown up. We caught up with him about how the planet’s tallest peak has captivated us for generations and become a pariah among ‘serious’ climbers.

Adventure.com: How has Everest changed our perception of adventure?

Will Cockrell: I’m not sure that Everest has changed it. It’s possible that Everest has changed as a result of our changing definition of adventure. As a journalist in the adventure space for so long, I’ve heard all the debates, and in fact, they were content for me for years. I wrote features and athlete profiles and things about that very topic. I always found it interesting how you’d have one person come out and say, “Adventure is dead.”

There is no spot on this earth that hasn’t been GPS-ed or Instagrammed or whatever, and that makes it impossible to have an adventure of the quality of previous generations. But then you’d have someone go surfing near, say, Papua New Guinea, and find a remote beach where they didn’t see anyone, and all of a sudden they’ll say the opposite. They’ll say it just goes to show the world is big, and we can go and find these things.  

As with Everest, a lot of what shapes that definition of adventure, what compels people to plant their flag on what they feel is ‘adventure,’ is what was done before—often by them. People get very righteous about the way they did something. It’s a little bit like when you say, “Glastonbury used to be good, and now the festival is no good anymore.” It’s just whatever you did, or whatever you find most romantic—that’s what defines adventure for you.

In your book, you refer to Bass as an ‘amateur,’ because he wasn’t a guide, and his inexperience is played up—including by him. Yet he obviously spent a lot of time in the mountains. What makes someone a ‘real’ climber?

I feel pretty strongly that there’s really no-one in a position to judge that except for yourself—unless you’re going to put someone in danger. I guess you could lie about your experience with a climbing partner. But as for who’s a ‘real’ climber and who’s not, I consider myself to be a lifelong climber and I understand that it’s all about self-sufficiency. It’s your responsibility to learn enough to be self-sufficient. Obviously you’re going to have times when you’re learning, and that’s OK, but the idea is that you continue to learn so you can not only get yourself out of trouble, but get other people out of trouble, too.

But the thing is, I don’t expect a non-climber to do that. I don’t expect Dick Bass to devote 10 years to becoming self-sufficient in the mountains when he has no interest in doing that. He just wanted to climb seven mountains and become as able to climb those seven as he needed to be.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top