Monday, February 22, 2010

Mount Everest Fact Check

Most of the conversations I have with my brother are the really annoying kind that happen between two very close people who spend a lot of time together. You know the ones:

Julia
Oh man, that guy is so that guy.
Dan
I know, right? Ugh, he's like that one guy with the hair.
Julia
Aw yeah, with the hat?
Dan
No, the really awful guy with the shirts.
Julia
Oh, that guy. Yeah, totally. God, he is awful.

Occasionally, we'll wander into more interesting territory, as in this actual (okay, slightly edited) conversation that took place yesterday afternoon:

Julia
I'm freezing. It's [expletive] cold.
Dan
"No, don't freeze the police! They'll be cold!"
Julia
Wait, what's that-
Dan
-one of the bad jokes from-
Julia
-right, right. [pause] Man, it would suck to be frozen.
Dan
Nah, you'd be dead.
Julia
You can be pretty frozen without being dead. That's why I have no desire to climb Mount Everest.
Dan
What? Really?
Julia
Yeah, what's the point? It's not like you're going to enjoy the spectacular view when you reach the summit. You'd just be like, "God, I'm miserable."
Dan
You know, I don't even think it's the tallest mountain in the world. It's just, like, the highest or something. I dunno, it'd be awesome. I'd totally do it.

What followed was a relatively long discussion about whether or not attempting to reach extreme mountain summits is a worthwhile endeavor. Our respective stances on the issue (and the general nature of our relationship) can be summed up thus:

Julia
Whatever, like you'd ever actually do it.
Dan
[Expletive] you.

Anyway, despite my apparent flippancy, I was actually inspired to do a little research:

Ten Things I Didn't Know About Mount Everest

1. Its Tibetan name is Chomolungma, which is not to be confused with 90s pop sensation Chumbawamba.
2. At 29,029 feet above sea level, Everest is the world's highest mountain, but indeed not its tallest. That distinction belongs to Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano in Hawaii. Mauna Kea is also home to one of the world's most important astronomical observatories. Definitely on my short list.



3. Apparently, in terms of technical mountaineering, Everest is not hugely challenging. It's that pesky weather that will get you. And of course, for those of us who aren't Sherpas, there is the issue of altitude. Climbers refer to anything above about 23,000 feet as the "Death Zone." That pretty much speaks for itself. Removing the fallen from this area is, as you might imagine, pretty difficult. In other words, if you plan to complete the ascent, prepare to see frozen corpses on your way. Seriously.
4. It can cost as much as $25,000 to get a permit to make the climb (see #9).
5. You can make a cell-phone call from the summit.
6. In 1980, Reinhold Messner became the first to reach the summit alone without supplementary oxygen. Technically, I knew this one already. But what kind of Ben Folds fan would I be if I didn't mention it?

7. Everest isn't free of insects. Pardon me, arachnids. There are some wee spiders as high as 22,000 feet.
8. Chew on this: because of "bulging" at the equator, the summit of Ecuador's Chimborazo is actually further away from the Earth's center than Everest's, even though it's nowhere near as far away from sea level. Weird.
9. The youngest non-Nepalese person to reach the summit was a 17 year old from Malibu (read: $) named...wait for it... Johnny Strange. Really? I'm glad he wants to end Parkinson's Disease and genocide, but he also says "alot" on his website. I may never reach the summit of Mount Everest, but I can sleep at night confident in the knowledge that "a lot" is, was, and forever shall be two words.
10. And finally...

3 comments:

ashupe said...

"He's gay - oops, I meant blind." !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I laughed way out loud for that one.

I love your conversations with Dan, thanks for including them.

Sara said...

First of all, the conversations you have with your brother sound really familiar and I love that you guys can do that.

Second, I have absolutely no inner pull to go to Everest. I wouldn't mind standing at the base, looking up and saying, "Shit. That's tall." That's really it.

Last, there are SPIDERS on top of that thing? Devil bugs...

Julia said...

You know Sara, I read that there's a lot of prostitution and crime at the Everest base camp. Maybe we should get in on a slice of that...