Every year in Nepal, at the end of the climbing season, the Nepalese celebrate “Sagarmantha (Mt. Everest Day).” A local Nepalese climber speaks for the local climbers and an international climber speaks for the international climbing community. In 2012, I was honored to speak for the international climbing community. Here are my remarks on May 29, 2012:
“Thank you. I am greatly humbled and honored to be asked to talk on behalf of the international mountaineering community. My qualifications are modest and pale in comparison to the qualifications of many of you in attendance here today. However, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity you have given me to offer my remarks at this celebratory event.
First, I want to congratulate those of you who summitted Mt. Everest this year. This is a remarkable achievement and you deserve to be proud.
I also want to congratulate those of you who climbed the mountain but did not summit. You too deserve to be proud of your efforts and especially happy that you made good decisions on the mountain and are here to celebrate life itself. It has been said that everyone wants to stand on the summit, but all the teaching, all the learning, all the hard work and all the experience occur on the ascent and the descent, and not on the summit.
Over the last 6 years, I have learned this valuable lesson that I pass along to those of you who did not summit: the mountain will surely be here next year if you decide to return.
This is my 6th year in a row on Mt. Everest–3 times on the South side and 3 times on the North side. This was a special year for me because I was able to climb from both the South and the North sides of Everest.
People often ask me why I keep coming back. Why do you do it year after year? What’s the point since you have already summitted the mountain? To be honest, sometimes I ask myself the same question.
Here’s the answer: I love the Himalaya mountain range. I love Mt. Everest. When I come here each year and put my foot on Mt. Everest, I feel like I am standing on sacred ground. In fact, I am standing on sacred ground. But, most of all, I come back every year because I love the people of Nepal and Tibet. They are so friendly and welcoming and willing to share their beautiful country with the international climbing community. Thank you so much for your hospitality and your generosity.
We often celebrate the accomplishments of the local and international climbers who come to the Himalayan region to climb these magnificent mountains. But, we often forget to celebrate and thank those wonderful people who make this possible and do most of the work and sacrifice the most on the mountain.
I refer of course to the Sherpas, Sirdars, Base Camp Managers, porters, cooks, medical doctors, icefall doctors, line fixers, helicopter pilots, and those unselfish individuals who participate in rescue and recovery efforts for stricken climbers. I also include, of course, the local and international expedition companies and their leaders and guides who work so hard to ensure our safety and our success on the mountain. And, finally, let’s not forget the Lamas who come up to Base Camp to conduct the Pujas and seek the blessing of the Almighty for our expeditions.
I would like to spend just a moment talking about the ecology of Mt. Everest. Over the last 6 years, I have seen a dramatic improvement in the cleanliness of Mt. Everest as the government and the local and international climbing community have mobilized efforts to remove trash from the mountain. There remains much to be done, but these efforts are paying huge dividends. In the “cash for trash” program our team initiated in 2009, we were able to remove 5 tons of trash from Base Camp South. I sincerely hope more teams will implement these type of clean-up programs and require the use of wag bags on the mountain. The cost is small, but the impact is positive and great.
Finally, a brief word about global warming. I know this is a controversial topic. But, we saw the impact of this early in the season on the South side with the lack of snow on the mountain causing serious injuries from rock falls. The people of Nepal see this from a much larger and more long-term perspective as climate change and global warming threaten their economy, social structure, culture and way of life. As we return to our countries, let’s keep this global concern in the public eye and the public discourse with the hope that the international community of nations can strike a proper balance between industrial development and the need to protect our precious environment. Let’s also do what we can as individuals in the short run to help the poorest of the poor in Nepal who are the most negatively impacted by climate change through the loss of jobs. We can help them by coming back to Nepal as tourists, trekkers and climbers, which will put people to work and support the economy. That’s what I plan to do.
Thank you, God Bless You, and see you next year.”