Okay, parents. Your 13 year old makes a decision that he wants to do something that has a 2 percent chance to be fatal.

Do you 1) Forbid him to do it. 2) Try to talk him out of this but if he refuses to listen to your concerns, allow him to do it anyway since it is his own choice, or 3) help and encourage him to risk his life, and spend lots of money to help him do it, while you are rewarded by oodles of publicity, press interviews, and maybe a book or movie contract for him (and ten minutes of fame for you and your present amour)?

Why, you chose number three.

Romero chatted with Smith via Skype from Everest’s Advanced Base Camp.

He said the climb was “definitely harder” than he’d anticipated, with lots of unexpected complications, but that it was “totally worth it.” The feeling at the summit, he said, was “like no other … the time of our lives.”

And, while it was fraught with perils, “That’s what it’s all about,” Romero remarked. “We’re climbers.”

He made his way up Everest with his father, Paul Romero, and Paul’s girlfriend, Karen Lundgren

The overall death rate for climbing Everest is 1.6 percent, but nowadays, with all sorts deciding to to a climb that has become a fad, the death rate is closer to 3 percent.

But this year the death rate has been higher, partly because so many people are trying to get to the top that they are getting delayed and running out of oxygen on the way down.

From National Geographic News:

Just days after four people died on Mount Everest during a rush by climbers to take advantage of favorable weather, experts say a similar “traffic jam” scenario could play out this weekend.

The 4 climbers were among approximately 200 to 300 who summited the world’s tallest mountain this past weekend during the first of only two summit windows available this season—each just two or three days long.

So what kind of father allows a boy to risk death to get on CBS Morning news?

This isn’t the first time the boy was abused. His father brags about helping him climb the “more dangerous” Denali peak.

The difference is that fewer folks die going up Denali, probably because it is lower and you are at less rick for high altitude sickness, and of course, there are more rescuers available to save their lives.

So why did this father allow his son to risk his life by climbing dangerous mountains? To brag about him on CBS morning news?

And why is CBS morning news encouraging the stunt? Don’t those who work at the network have children?

This is not just a question of if the boy is old enough mentally to make such a decision, (13 is not) or if his climber father is pushing him or reinforcing his own desire to do these dangerous climbs (which sounds probable from the news stories).

The problem with teenagers is that they often do risky things, because they simply do not comprehend the risk, or realize that they might die, or even comprehend that death is final.

But there is another factor that increases the danger in this case: when it comes to early teens, there is also the problem of physiological immaturity..

Their bodies aren’t as strong as adults in early puberty because they haven’t had the spurt of testosterone to develop their muscles growth.  To complicate matters, early teens have immature bones that haven’t stopped growing (and you can get growth plate injuries).

Climbers need muscle strength, not just to climb but to carry their oxygen and supplies. And rock climbing of any sort can lead to overuse injury of the upper extremity.

From the BMJ:

Mounting clinical evidence suggests that sports training of sufficient duration and intensity can precipitate pathological changes to the growth plate that may result in growth disturbance.61 63 Bone growth can be halted through shearing, avulsion and compression forces to produce deformity.61 63 64 Unlike adults, the physis on the epiphyseal plates in growing youngsters is two to five times weaker than the surrounding connective fibrous tissue.61 63 A force producing a ligamentous tear in an adult is likely to incur more damage in a youngster.61 63

Some research points to a 75–90% probability of developing an upper limb injury or overuse syndrome in climbing.65

So who is regulating the climbs to prevent another scenerio? The local government.

China already has a lower age limit of 16, and Nepal is also supposed to have one.

Despite the anticipated traffic on Everest this weekend, Nepali officials, who issue Everest climbing permits, said they wouldn’t turn any climbers away.

“The climbers have received the permits to climb within specific dates. We cannot say who gets to get to the summit on which dates because of the unpredictable weather. When weather clears up, they all want to benefit,” Nepal‘s Tourism Ministry spokesman, Bal Krishna Ghimire, told the AP.

But will they? Tourism is one of the major sources of income for that poor country. Few Americans, who often see Nepal as “Shangri la” are aware of that country’s recent instability or the strong communist influence in the government.  Americans are not probably aware that hundreds of thousands of people have left to work abroad, that a large percentage of HIV in that country is due to these workers returning home sick, nor that the children left behind when parents work abroad  end up on the street.

When a country is poor, they will look the other way to allow their people an opportunity, be it to work in Saudi or India as a day laborer or to risk their lives to assist rich white folks to climb Everest.

Another, more chilling news story about climbing Everest can be found in the UK MAIL from 25 May 2012:

Youngest British woman to scale Mount Everest reveals how she had to clamber past dead mountaineers at the summit

Leanne Shuttleworth (age 19) said passing the casualties was ‘the most horrendous’ part of the ascent
She said the frozen bodies of climbers who died last weekend were still attached to fixed mountaineering lines
Teenager said one teammate was forced to turn back after his corneas froze in the terrible weather conditions
Four people have now been confirmed as dead last week in storm that prompted a dangerous ‘traffic jam’ as climbers rushed to the summit

  Many started final ascent hours after it is safe due to storm and high number of climbers on first weekend the mountain was open.

What a nice memory for your 13 year old child to bring home.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines

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