First designated as the highest mountain in the world in 1852, Mount Everest stands at the majestic height of 29,035 ft. above sea level. Over the years its dizzy heights have been a lure to the tenacity of the mountaineer. The British climber, George Herbert Leigh Mallory, was once asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His answer was simple – “Because it’s there.” It was in
1924 during a third British expedition to Everest that he and Andrew Irvine left their camp at 26,000 ft. on the morning of June 8 to climb for the summit. Though last seen by another member of the expedition high on the peak around 12:50 pm that day, they never returned nor was any trace of their bodies found until 75 years later when a team of climbers, who had set out to learn their fate in 1999, discovered the body of George Mallory on a scree terrace at 26,700 ft. It was another 29 years after the attempt of Mallory and Irvine before Everest was finally conquered. On May 29, 1953 the New Zealander, Edmund Percival Hilary, and his Nepalese Sherpa partner, Tenzing Norgay spent around 15 minutes on the top of the world before descending.
Thousands of climbers have made it to the summit of Everest and back since Hilary and Norgay. Hundreds of others however, have paid the ultimate price for their endeavours. Two days particularly are marked on the calendar of Everest climbing because of the scale of human loss. On May 11, 1996, 8 climbers tragically lost their lives high up the mountain mainly due to the severity of a storm that rapidly descended upon them. Then on April 18, 2014, 16 Nepalese guides were killed by an avalanche while climbing slowly up the Khumbu Icefall at about 19,000 ft. on the Nepali slopes of Everest not far above Base Camp and southwest of the summit.
The region above 25,000 ft. in the Himalayas is known as the ‘Death Zone.’ In the already inhospitable and barren environment that Everest is, once above that height the dangers are all the more acute. The air is thin and the oxygen deficiency affects the body and the brain. Climbers will breath more rapidly and deeper while experiencing increased pulse rates as the body craves for oxygen. Loss of appetite, inability to sleep and a reduced mental capacity are symptoms of oxygen deprivation that are indeed dangerous at such heights where a wrong decision or careless mistake can be fatal. Even with an oxygen supply the effects of high altitude are unavoidable and exhaustion is real. The many bodies of the fallen that lie on the slopes of Everest testify to its harsh environment.
Ever since man rebelled against his Creator people, governments and nations have always ‘climbed’ toward the ‘Death Zone’ of sin. Today, the nations that have been most influenced by Christianity and shaped by the values of the Bible are leading the ‘climb’ to disaster. We are breathing the ‘thin air’ of satanic deception and are being starved of the ‘oxygen’ of truth. God has been abandoned, the Bible has become irrelevant and the sacred is despised. The longer we stay in the ‘Death Zone’ of sin the more unable we are to appreciate what is good and greater is the disorientation of our minds. We can hardly distinguish between truth and falsehood anymore and as a result, we increasingly don’t know the difference between right and wrong.
There is hope though. What we need is to breathe again the life giving ‘air’ of the gospel. We need a fresh supply of the ‘oxygen’ of God’s truth. We need our minds reoriented by His Word and our souls invigorated with His life. The Lord Jesus Christ said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If you want to be delivered from the ‘Death Zone’ of sin and know how to reach God and heaven you need to follow the way, believe in the truth and receive the life. You need to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to prove the truth of His words.
The summit of Mount Everest seen from Kala Patthar in Nepal.