Aspen’s Marolt on Everest: ‘I’m just blown away that more people don’t get killed’ |

Aspen’s Marolt on Everest: ‘I’m just blown away that more people don’t get killed’

A long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest just below camp four, in Nepal on May 22. Seasoned mountaineers say the Nepal government's failure to limit the number of climbers on Mount Everest has resulted in dangerous overcrowding and a greater number of deaths.
Rizza Alee / AP | AP

When Aspen mountaineer Mike Marolt ponders pictures of a traffic jam last week on a precipitous ridge near the Mount Everest summit and the recent carnage on the world’s tallest mountain, he recalls a night high in the “Death Zone” there in 2007 while attempting to climb it without oxygen.

“The harrowing activity of sleeping in a tent at over 27,000 feet was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” said Marolt, who is renowned for climbing and skiing high-altitude peaks from the Himalayas to the Andes. “If you could communicate that to those people in that line that are sucking on (bottled) oxygen, that have Sherpas assisting them, if people knew how utterly dangerous it was to be above 25,000 feet without oxygen, that line would disappear. If you could magically flip a switch to turn everybody’s oxygen off in that line, you’d have a 90 percent fatality rate.

“I’m just blown away that more people don’t get killed on that mountain.”

Eleven have perished on Everest so far this season — including Boulder attorney Christopher Kulish, who died Monday on his way down from the summit. Not for the first time, a tragic death toll has brought into question the number of climbing permits issued by the government of Nepal and the performance of commercial guiding operations that have made it possible for inexperienced mountaineers to attempt the 29,029-foot behemoth on the Nepal-Tibet border in the Himalayas.

“I don’t want to say they deserve a pass, but I will say it’s not really our place, from a wealthy nation, to judge the way a developing country tries to survive and thrive.”Phil Powers

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