Monday, December 13, 2010

Confessions of a Peak Bagger

"Mountaineers consider routes, peak baggers count summits."
Bagging Alexandra Peak, Mt. Kinabalu Massif, Malaysian Borneo.  Photo courtesy of Jack Chen.
What's a peak bagger?  It's a somewhat derogatory term used by 'real' climbers to describe a person who has no real interest in the technical difficulty of the route by which he ascends a mountain.  The primary goal of a peak bagger is to reach the summit (or a collection of summits), usually by the easiest possible route, and usually for the purpose of 'bragging rights'.

I must confess that in wanting to climb Mt. Everest, I have become a peak bagger.  This really shouldn't come as a surprise, as I feel most climbers (myself included) choose to climb Everest not for the aesthetics of the route, but more for 'bragging rights'.   

Heck, if there was an easy way up the mountain, I'd take it.  The thing is, there is no easy way.  The altitude makes any physical activity difficult, and even with supplemental oxygen, humans are at the limit of physical endurance near the summit.

I've chosen to climb up the North Ridge, from Tibet, next Spring.  This is one of the 'standard' routes up the mountain, the other being the South Col route via Nepal.  In terms of technical difficulty, they are about the same.  But in terms of danger, the North Ridge surprisingly trumps the South Col.  Even though the single most dangerous place on the mountain is the Ice Fall near the bottom of the South Col route, statistically, the North Ridge is twice as deadly as the South Col (Source: The Deadly Side of Everest, Alan Arnette, 2009).

I don't have a death wish, and the statistics are what they are.  The decision to climb from the North has more to do with marketing (and sponsors), as no Singaporean has successfully climbed Everest from the North.  So in just a few short months, Singapore's top long distance female triathlete, Esther Tan, and myself, will be heading off to climb the North Ridge of Everest with the sole prupose of 'bagging' the big 'E'.

 

1 comment:

telekia said...

Hi, there
there is no way I could go to Mount Everest summit. Once I stood below it, on its Nepal side. If I were to chose a route up the mountain I would vote for the north side, too. I wish you great time on the mountain. Otto