Death again has marked the climbing season on Mount Everest: four climbers died last week and two more are missing.
Seattle-based guide Garrett Madison’s team was hit by tragedy last year. But he told KUOW’s Emily Fox there was no doubt that he would return to the world’s tallest mountain.
“I always knew I wanted to come back and climb Mount Everest again, even after the very tragic circumstances of the last two years,” Madison said by phone from Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday. “I know that Mount Everest can be an incredibly positive and beautiful place, and it turned out to be that way this year.”
Last week his guiding company, Madison Mountaineering, successfully put seven clients, five guides and 15 Sherpas on the summit of the world’s tallest mountain. All returned safely.
An expedition Madison led last year wasn’t as lucky. Team medic Eve Girawong, 28, was killed along with 21 others when a massive earthquake that hit Nepal triggered an avalanche that devastated Everest’s base camp. In 2014, an avalanche on the ice fall above base camp killed 16 Sherpa workers.
Then this year, over a period of a few days after Madison’s team summited, came a series of deaths that may have resulted from altitude sickness: a Dutch man, an Australian woman, and an Indian man. A Sherpa climber reportedly fell to his death. Two more Indian climbers are missing.
Madison said there will always be danger on the mountain, especially close to the summit.
“We’re up in the ‘death zone’ above 26,000 feet and it’s a very high-stakes environment,” he said. “It’s an exhilarating place but also a very risky place.”
So what drives him to keep going back?
“I’ve been to the top seven times now. But when I to go to climb Everest it’s not all about me making it to the summit,” Madison said.
“It’s about helping other climbers realize their goals and dreams and sharing in that experience. So for me it’s very rewarding to help facilitate that experience for others.”