A long time ago, I interviewed Steve Berry who runs Jagged Globe, a Sheffield-based climbing and trekking outfit who, among other things, regularly guide Everest. Didn't the publication of Krakauer's 'Into Thin Air', which vividly explosed the risks of commercial mountaineering on the world's highest peak, I asked him, put people off going there?
On the contrary, said Bell, the book actually increased the number of people willing to pay out $40,000 or so to be cajoled up Everest by professional guides and Sherpas. Fast forward a decade or so, and nothing much has changed.
Every year the nationals publish voyeuristic news of deaths and traffic jams on the world's highest peak and every year it carries on just the same. That's not to say that the recent deaths weren't tragic. Or avoidable. Or newsworthy, but I have absolutely zero belief that anything will change.
So what is the story? That there are queues of commercial climbers stacked up below the Hillary Step? Or that an estimated 200 people will attempt the summit this weekend? Is that news to anyone who's even vaguely followed the Everest circus for the last 20 years or so? Is it news that climbers are desperate to climb the highest mountain in the world because it's, well, the highest mountain in the world rather than because it's beautiful or technically interesting or a wilderness experience?
Not really. It's not even news that the cash-strapped Nepalese government is highly unlikely to limit numbers on Everest when doing so would mean turning away desperately needed foreign currency.
So what is the news? My take is this: foreign climbers choose to put themselves in the position they do in the full knowledge that Everest is a potentially lethal mix of altitude, cold and overcrowding, they've read the books, seen the films, read the news. They do it because they are rich and ambitious. The Sherpas who are up there with them, on the other hand, don't have any such luxury.
They are there because of cold, hard, economic realities. Because they can make more money in a single season as a high altitude porter on Everest than over a lifetime of subsistence farming. Because the money they earn enables them to send their children to school, to build a better house, maybe to open a lodge and benefit from the trekking tourist economy.
But the pay-off for those unimaginable riches, is that they take life-threatening risks which aren't necessarily of their own choosing. And surely that can't be right?