May 30, 2006 | Post Archive
The Guinness Book of World Records is a testimony to the world's infatuation with stardom. Apparently, not even typically spiritual Nepali mountain men are untouched by its allure. Lakpa Tharke Sherpa, a 25-year-old mountain guide, made it to Mount Everest's summit last week with the intent to bare all.
After years of summiting the lofty peak, climbers are running out of options to set records. But standing nude atop the world's tallest mountain is one that hadn't yet been attempted. Hannah Harris's article, How Mount Everest Works gives a good explanation of why:
Everest is an extremely inhospitable place. Temperatures at the top are typically around 36 degrees C below zero in the winter and can drop as low as 60 degrees C below. Temperatures only rise to an average of 18 below during the warmest part of the summer and monsoon storms make Everest insurmountable during this period. The jet stream buffets the top of Everest with hurricane force winds for much of the year. During April and May, the jet stream shifts somewhat, offering relatively calm weather and this is when most climbs occur. Avalanches are a constant threat and they have claimed many lives. Fierce storms may blow up unexpectedly, trapping or blinding climbers. Shifting glaciers can open suddenly, creating deep crevasses, often obscured by snow. Lack of oxygen is one of the major challenges posed by Everest. The oxygen levels at the top are only a third of what they are at sea level. Humans cannot survive for any length of time at elevation above 26,000 feet (8000 m), which on Everest is known as the "death zone." At this altitude, the human body is unable to acclimate to the low oxygen and begins to deteriorate. Most climbers must use oxygen and will have difficulty sleeping.
I don't know about you, but the last thing I'd want to do in a sudden gale of icy wind is try to put clothes on. "All right guys, not funny. Who took my pants?"
Lakpa was lucky enough to last a full three minutes with no apparent physical side effects just long enough for his buddies to snap some photos for the famed record book. But Lakpa has some "'splaining" to do when he gets home. The Buddhist Sherpas consider Mount Everest, or Chomulungma -- Goddess Mother of Earth -- to be sacred. In the eyes of the Sherpa community, Lakpa has desecrated the holy mountain by going au naturale for the sake of personal fame. Talk about a double 'no-no'. And you thought this was a bad idea.