Action | August 28, 2020 2:59 pm

Study: It’s Getting Much Easier to Climb Mount Everest

The bucket-list summit may not be so inconceivable after all

Domes in an Everest base camp in Shigatse, Tibet taken on May 19, 2020
An Everest base camp in Shigatse, Tibet in May 2020.
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

You may have already had an inkling that it’s getting easier to climb Mount Everest when that traffic jam photo went viral last year. Now, a new study has confirmed that the holy grail of mountain climbing, previously considered a physical test only surmountable by a select few, is more accessible than ever.

The findings come by way of Raymond Huey, an evolutionary biologist and professor emeritus at the University of Washington, as Gizmodo reported. The study, titled “Mountaineers on Mount Everest” and published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that “recent climbers of both sexes were almost twice as likely to summit” between the period of 2006 to 2019 as compared to the period from 1990 to 2005. 

“The probability of reaching the summit and surviving has shot up in recent decades: about 2/3 of climbers during 2006 to 2019 reached the summit and survived,” Huey told Gizmodo. The outlet added that the success rate was about one-third during the earlier period.

While this seems a relatively obvious conclusion — every year there seems to be better gear, better training and better guides — a few points of the study are intriguing. First of all, Huey and his team only looked at first-time attempts to summit Everest, meaning veteran climbers weren’t skewing the results. Also, when comparing inexperienced and experienced climbers, the study found that “the effect of prior experience on success rates is small and has declined in recent years, possibly because of increased reliance on commercial expeditions.”

Moreover, “the study found no evidence that the crowding of climbers going up the mountain in a long line seen in recent years was associated with any heightened risk of death or lower chance of success, as some experts have worried,” as Gizmodo wrote.

For those interested in summiting Everest, these findings are another reason to consider it (well, after the pandemic at least). For purists worried about overcrowding, it’s a little worrying. But the good news for all concerned? The probability of dying has remained low, around one percent.