Opinion: Death and destruction at high altitudes

Mountaineering is a sport that was founded on the values of motivation, self-reliance, and the ability to conquer, in some cases, what has not been conquered before.

In the last thirty or so years, this adventurous endeavor has made a turn for the worse. The sport has gone from Reinhold Messner, an accomplished mountaineer who was the first summit of all 8,000 meter peaks, to the story of “Into Thin Air,” which is an example of where the sport has gone wrong with the introduction of commercialization.

With the Mont Blanc region of France averaging 100 deaths per year, the recent loss of 16 Nepalese Sherpas in April 2014, and a lack of standards causing accidents and the trashing of mountains, something needs to change.

Only five months ago was considered the darkest season on Mount Everest when 16 rope-fixing Sherpas were horrifically killed in a serac fall, which is when giant columns of ice that are notorious for being unstable collapse. All but a couple of the Sherpas had been fixing lines for tourists who were sitting at base camp waiting to slog up the mountain in an eight-to-ten week process.

Reinhold Messner, someone who represents the legitimate mountaineering community, has compared Mount Everest to kindergarten. Think of crampons, the metal cleats attached to boots as the shoes, and the guide you paid as the parent of incompetent children who cannot be responsible for themselves.

With tremendous amounts of unnecessary accidents occurring in the Alps and especially Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, these tragic injuries or deaths could easily be avoided if rules were set. Each year with more and more rescue missions, the responders are put at risk usually for someone who should not have been there in the first place.

Many mountains are also facing environmental problems due to oxygen tanks being left behind, human waste left everywhere, and trash that have not taken responsibility for.

Mountainous countries, such as France, Nepal, and the United States, should set rules and standards to continue the sport in the right direction. Without restoring a sense of respect and responsibility towards mountains, not only will more people be unnecessarily injured, but we will also lose the beauty of nature.