If you even loosely follow the news, you likely know about the deaths and chaos on Mt. Everest this season. At the time of this writing, there had been 11 deaths while climbers queued up to reach the summit. This makes the 2019 climbing season the deadliest in four years. It was also the busiest season, with more than 825 climbers and Sherpas reaching the summit — 825!
For people like me in the non-climbing crowd, Everest and all of her allure and dangers first came into our realm with Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into Thin Air.”
This book was a fascinating and horrifying look into climbing the big peaks. But unless you were a climber, did anyone have any idea of just how many people were trying to reach that summit along that narrow, frigid, oxygen deprived route? Surely the big business of Everest has exploded since the 1996 expedition which Krakauer’s book details — however, 825 people? Unimaginable. That is, until you see the photos that have been splashed all over social media of the lineup for the summit. It looks like an icy line for a ride at a Disney theme park, with a few freezer burned cadavers and a bunch of oxygen canisters littering the ground for effect.
This really has nothing to do with Mazama. I could try to write a tenuous thread between the Mountain Madness vans that bring climbers into our area to climb Fun Rock and the fact that they also offer guiding up the world’s tallest mountain. Or I could attempt to link author Jon Krakauer to the Methow. Surely he did some climbing here while he lived in Seattle, right?
Really though, the 2019 Everest climbing season and its perils brought to my mind the missing PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hiker, Kris Fowler, aka “Sherpa.”
I wrote about him last year and he is still missing.
I have remained in contact with his mother, Sally, who lives in Ohio. As any parent could imagine, she is still tirelessly trying to find her son. Kris was confirmed to have been last seen on Oct. 12, 2016, at the White Pass Trailhead, and was one of the last hikers heading northbound that season. What makes him of particular interest for us in Mazama is that he was possibly sighted at the Mazama Store sometime between Oct. 15–22, 2016. If this really was Kris, it means that he had almost made it to the northern end of the PCT and is possibly somewhere between Mazama and Canada. During these dates, storms moved into the area and snow had begun to fall upon the ground and the trail. It is conjectured that Kris may have gotten off the trail because it was covered in snow. Did he become lost somewhere in our forests? Is he, like the Everest climbers, someone who met his demise doing what he truly loved? His family is still holding out hope that he is out there somewhere, but are also being realistic.
Flyers are being posted at local trailheads and the Mazama Store with pictures of Kris and gear that he was known to have been carrying. If you are hiking and see any left behind gear, please note the colors, brands, sizes and mark the coordinates. Call 911 as soon as you are able with all of the information.