In May 2012, four people died while coming down the southern slope of Mount Everest. They had reached the 29,028 ft. summit earlier and were on their way back down, when tragedy struck. The four included a German medical doctor, a man from South Korea, a Canadian woman, and a man from China. Ironically, on the previous Saturday, a 73-year-old Japanese woman had climbed Mt. Everest from the northern side and became the oldest woman ever on the summit. 1
The cause of death was not immediately known for all of the climbers. But the German doctor’s death was diagnosed as “high-altitude cerebral edema.” In layman’s terms: “altitude sickness.” The doctor experienced the most severe form of the sickness which is almost always fatal. Climbers often expend all their energy going up the mountain and fail to consider the energy needed to get back down. The result? They become weak and vulnerable to getting sick.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2006, on average there’s been one death for every ten successful attempts to scale Mt. Everest. The worst-ever climbing season was in 2015, when 22 climbers died. 2 This year there have been ten deaths.
“Most people understand the dangers of mountain climbing. Few consider the not so obvious dangers of coming down.”
This past May, Andrew O’Reilly wrote an article for Fox News titled: “Mount Everest Madness: Recent deaths raise concerns of overcrowding and inexperienced climbers.” He said, “While major improvements in climbing gear, weather forecasting and communications equipment — along with the advent of professional guiding services – have made the endeavor slightly safer, it also has opened up the mountain to less-experienced climbers and created the high-altitude traffic jams on the mountain that in the past have proved deadly.” 3
Most people understand the inherent dangers of mountain climbing, especially climbing mountains as high as Mount Everest. However, few consider the not so obvious dangers of coming down.
Mountaintop experiences are wonderful and many seek them on a regular basis, giving little regard to the dangers that lurk on the other side when coming down. Truth is, we’re more vulnerable after a mountaintop experience (a success or a victory), than we are after a failure or a loss.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV 1984), “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” The context is temptation. The temptation after a mountaintop experience is to think we’re invincible. “Things are going so good, what could possibly go wrong?” The reality is anything and everything could go wrong.
Mountaintop experiences are awesome. Just be sure you’re prepared for coming down.
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
1 Shrestha, Manesh. “Four Die on Mount Everest.” CNN, Cable News Network, 25 May 2012, www.cnn.com/2012/05/21/world/asia/everest-deaths/index.html. ://www.cnn.com/2012/05/21/world/asia/everest-deaths/index.html
2 Mailonline, Georgia Diebelius For. “Mount Everest Had Its Highest Death Toll Ever in 2015 with 22 Climbers Killed (and NOBODY Reached the Summit).” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 5 Jan. 2016, www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3385160/Mount-Everest-highest-death-toll-2015-22-climbers-killed-reached-summit.html. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3385160/Mount-Everest-highest-death-toll-2015-22-climbers-killed-reached-summit.html
3 “Mount Everest Madness: Recent Deaths Raise Concerns of Overcrowding and Inexperienced Climbers.” Fox News, FOX News Network, www.foxnews.com/world/2017/05/25/mount-everest-madness-recent-deaths-raise-concerns-overcrowding-and-inexperienced-climbers.html. ://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/05/25/mount-everest-madness-recent-deaths-raise-concerns-overcrowding-and-inexperienced-climbers.html
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.