Aspen’s Mike Marolt on Everest: ‘I’m just blown away that more people don’t get killed on that mountain’ |

Aspen’s Mike Marolt on Everest: ‘I’m just blown away that more people don’t get killed on that mountain’

In this photo made on May 22, 2019, a long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest. About half a dozen climbers died on Everest last week most while descending from the congested summit during only a few windows of good weather each May. (Nirmal Purja/@Nimsdai Project Possible via AP)

When Aspen mountaineer Mike Marolt ponders pictures of a traffic jam last week on a precipitous ridge near the Mount Everest summit and the recent carnage on the world’s tallest mountain, he recalls a night high in the “Death Zone” there in 2007 while attempting to climb it without oxygen.

“The harrowing activity of sleeping in a tent at over 27,000 feet was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” said Marolt, who is renowned for climbing and skiing high-altitude peaks from the Himalayas to the Andes. “If you could communicate that to those people in that line that are sucking on (bottled) oxygen, that have Sherpas assisting them, if people knew how utterly dangerous it was to be above 25,000 feet without oxygen, that line would disappear. If you could magically flip a switch to turn everybody’s oxygen off in that line, you’d have a 90 percent fatality rate.

“I’m just blown away that more people don’t get killed on that mountain.”

Eleven have perished on Everest so far this season — including Boulder attorney Christopher Kulish, who died Monday on his way down from the summit. Not for the first time, a tragic death toll has brought into question the number of climbing permits issued by the government of Nepal and the performance of commercial guiding operations that have made it possible for inexperienced mountaineers to attempt the 29,029-foot behemoth on the Nepal-Tibet border in the Himalayas.

For more on this story, go to

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User