On May 12th Elia Saikaly stood on the top of Mount Everest. That moment was bittersweet for him. Here he writes an open letter to the mountain.
“I deeply apologize for standing on your crown. I know better. But this is my 4th summit and every other time I was busy taking climbers’ sponsor photos and I never had a moment to look into beautiful Tibet. This time, I did. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary to stand up here before things got so out of control.
“I apologize on behalf of ‘mountaineers’ for the pile of trash that is cropped out beneath my feet. The most sacred place on Earth is a now a dump. Sponsor banners have been left up here and I just watched a climber leave his empty energy drink can up here. My colleague Scott yelled at him for littering.
“There is a deceased human being at the Hillary Step that we all had to climb over, but I doubt that will end up in the glory stories that populate social media. I nearly froze on the way up here because of the human traffic jam created by inexperienced climbers. I also watched human beings literally sh*t all over you as I had a wag-bag strapped to my butt, trying to do the right thing, by minimizing my own footprint and packing out my own waste.
“I came here to work and earn a living despite promising I’d never return. I just saw too much in 2019. Greed and hubris is everywhere. The usual suspects already have two deaths on their watch and Covid-19 is rampant, yet no one seems to care. Summit at all costs!
“I agreed to return to help make a film about the heroes of the Himalayas. As I watched my Sherpa friends, some who carried up to 9 bottles of oxygen from camp 2 to camp 4, I was disgusted with myself as I knew that valuable oxygen was needed to save lives in the lowlands and in Kathmandu. But then I thought: these boys need the money and Everest summit seekers are happy to toss it away for the amusement park ride that is Mt. Everest. And yet I filmed it…
“I also heard China is building a ‘wall’ at the ‘border’ I am standing on. Which again, I apologize and promise not to do again.
“I was spellbound and blind for many years and now I see with eyes wide open.”