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August/September 2009First In: Special Report
Photo: Everest

Everest Overshadowed

Headlines. TV shows. Controversy. The world’s highest mountain is a perpetual source of excitement. So why are the planet’s best climbers elsewhere?

Text by David Roberts
Photograph by Alex Treadway

“Everest season.” The expression has become synonymous with the period between the brutal Himalayan winter and the soaking summer monsoon, the time when all eyes zero in on the highest mountain in the world to see what kind of records, hijinks, tragedies, and personal bests will ensue.

This spring, Everest saw its usual blitz of activity. Three hundred–plus summits—far short of the record. Five deaths—lamentable but no Into Thin Air. Apa Sherpa upped his own mark by topping out an astounding 19th time. A few days later, American climber Dave Hahn made his 11th ascent, the non-Sherpa record. Hahn’s teammate Ed Viesturs, on his own 11th Everest expedition, reached the summit for the seventh time—four years after finishing off all 14 of the planet’s 8,000ers—partly in service of an Eddie Bauer–sponsored expedition, but also to see if he still had what it took on the verge of his big 5-0 (he does).

The daily headlines sped stateside via a formidable array of video dispatches, podcasts, and blog posts. Two television crews covered the events, blow by blow, on the north and south sides of the mountain. And yet among the climbing cognoscenti the melee elicited little more than a shrug.

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