Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Kodas finds avarice, theft and worse on the slopes of Mount Everest during a troubled 2004 expedition.
On assignment for the Hartford Courant, Kodas went with his wife and six others on an Everest expedition that quickly dissolved into acrimony. Problems surfaced with their erratic guide, George Dijmarescu, and other team members even before they left the United States. Eventually, the dissension resulted in charges of theft and physical threats. Kodas also encountered evidence that some team members ignored dying climbers near Everest’s peak. The author’s cautionary tale paints a grim picture of Everest mountaineering today. Poorly trained climbers, eager for the status of an Everest summit, routinely pay exorbitant fees to guides who inflate their resumes to make a quick buck, then often abandon their clients when they falter in the high-altitude “Death Zone.” Increasingly, these wealthy novices are taxing the manpower and resources of able climbers and guides, who are reluctant to leave their own well-paying ascents to rescue them. Meanwhile, Kodas finds the slopes of Everest rampant with crime, from the disappearance of vital equipment to drug use and prostitution. He points to one outfitter who routinely sold substandard oxygen tanks, threatening the lives of climbers who used them. Even steroids have apparently found their way to Everest, as climbers look for that extra boost to get them to the top.
A clear-eyed, riveting narrative.