If all the world’s a stage, then Mount Everest is La Scala, Covent Gardens, and the Metropolitan rolled into one. While plenty of mountain drama has played out on peaks around the world, the events that unfold on the world’s loftiest pinnacle never fail to capture the imagination and hold us transfixed. No surprise, really, since Everest has come to symbolize something more than mere mountain climbing. (Cue: Beethoven’s 5th.)
The mountain is a testament to human grit and tenacity, courage and determination—a crucible capable of exposing what is best in us, the kind of deep character we might not even know we possess.
Alternately, it is a grand proscenium that reveals all that is worst in us—the vanity and hubris; the decades of shameless, selfish trophy bagging. Everest, as it’s often pointed out, is a mirror on modern humanity, a once-sacred place desecrated by dimwits with enough dough to get short-hauled to the summit.
Both? Neither? Perhaps it’s just a “big, dumb hunk of rock,” as one Everest veteran put it, on to which we project our folly and foibles. That may say as much about the observers as the observed, but whatever the case and whatever your take, Everest has certainly been host to some notable events, both good and bad. What follows is our round-up of the top 10 tragedies (in subjective order), milestones that span two centuries of exploration, and six decades of successful summits. There were certainly plenty of incidents to choose from, and our list is far from exhaustive. But no apologies: Here’s our 10. Do they jibe with yours?