Outside magazine, August 1999
Still the One: The 1999 Everest Almanac
Mountaineering's main attraction is bigger than ever
This year's May climbing season on Mount Everest saw record fan participation, a bevy of Everest-inspired products, and—lest we forget—plenty of impressive accomplishments from the climbers themselves: American Pete Athans reached the summit for the sixth time, a record among non-Sherpas; Russian Lev Sarkisov, 60, became the oldest climber to reach the top; Sherpa Babu Chiri became the first person to pitch a tent and sleep overnight on the roof of the world; and the remains of Everest pioneer George Mallory were finally discovered, 75 years after his fateful climb. Herewith, a quantitative log of the action at or below 29,028 feet. —ERIC HANSEN
Age difference, in days, between sexagenarian Sarkisov and dethroned senior summiter Ramón Blanco: 1
Estimated time, in minutes, that the average climber spends on the summit: 32
Elapsed time, in hours, that Babu Chiri spent on the summit (without oxygen): 21
Number of 1999 climbers outfitted with U.S. Armydesigned probes intended to measure body temperature and heart rate and to monitor climbers' current location on digital maps: 5
Average heart rate, in beats per minute, of a climber reclining on the summit: 145
Average heart rate, in beats per minute, of a climber relaxing in Kathmandu's Rum Doodle bar, enjoying a postexpedition Nepali Star beer: 65
Average number of hits per day in first half of May on www.MountainZone.com: one million
Average number of hits per day in May on www.MountainZone.com's longest-running Everest 1999 Web forum, "Who's the Cutest?": 1
Number of "cutest" votes to date for deceased climber George Mallory: 3
Price paid for three-by-three-inch color photo of George Mallory's frozen body, as reported by London Observer: $40,000+
Price really paid for the Mallory shot: somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000
Number of $1,400 Sir Edmund Hillary Mount Everest commemorative fountain pens (affixed with a pebble plucked from the summit) sold in Beverly Hills in May: 3
Estimated price of nationwide commercial launch of Amurol Confections Company's Everest Powerful Mint Gum—touted as "The World's First Gum with a Windchill Factor": $8 million
Price of a 1999 Mount Everest team climbing permit: $70,000
Annual per capita income in Nepal: $1,370
Number of climbers who summited Everest in May 1999: 117
Percent increase over the number of climber summits in May 1996: 25
Number of climbers who died on the mountain in May 1999: 4
Estimated number of bodies remaining on Everest: 165
What Goes with a Dead Cougar La-Z-Boy?
Who knew animal art could be so fabulous?
The scales have fallen from our eyes. there was a time we felt we had a handle on "Western style"—the rough-hewn pine furniture, the Navajo blankets, the full-length Clint Eastwoodstyle leather dusters draped casually over a buck antler chair. But there have been developments in the world of ranch chic. As Architectural Digest said in its June issue—describing a "pluralistic, global-modernist, multicultural" ranch house near Bozeman—"No matter who you are or where you come from, moving to the country brings changes that aren't always predictable."
Which explains, we thought, the onslaught of fish in the West's ever-growing megabucks, gentleman-rancher circles. Rainbow trout cavort on drapes or leap across upholstered chairs. They fill an entire room at the ultratrendy Antèks Western-themed furnishings store, which opened its newest branch in West Hollywood last November. Fishnet lampshades and trout wall sconces swim out of the store. As do the $10,000 fish-bedecked, gnarled-pine billiard tables made by Drawknife, a woodworking company in Tetonia, Idaho. At one time the company made humble fence posts. Then they realized the power of the piscine and started emblazoning leaping trout onto the sides of pool tables. Voilà, they sell 300 of them a year.
Call it the triumph of the troutistic—only the latest manifestation of that ubiquitous 1990s Western obsession best described as Furry-Dead-Thingism. "Rustic has caught on like bellbottoms," enthuses Thea Marx, director of the annual Western Design Conference. Antler chandeliers, of course, are everywhere—from Donald Trump's Taj Mahal Hotel to Time/Warner CEO Gerald Levin's incongruously Western-themed Vermont vacation home. But they're so 1997. Far more au courant are accent pieces in which the entire dead critter is displayed. In Jackson Hole, the furniture store High Country Accents sells an armchair fashioned from juniper and deer hide, with a dead mountain lion—the whole carcass—bolted to the top like a model draped over a Porsche. Selling price: $9,000. Or for the wildlife-loving executive, there's the two-headed office desk: a dignified grizzly in one corner and a stoic black bear staring at you from the other.
This year's Western Design Conference, which will be held next month in Cody, Wyoming, promises even more outrageous necrophilic chic, including the much-anticipated debut of Country Log Caskets' ornate works of funerary art. "We ask designers to push the absolute limits," Marx declares.
Of course, there's danger in that: As more people embrace the fin-and-fur aesthetic, the movement can only grow passé. "Once this is big in Cincinnati," sniffs Stephen Kent, co-owner of the Colorado company Crystal Farm, which specializes in all things antler, "it's over in L.A. But for now," he says, "they still love us in Malibu."