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When we say “Everest is crowded,” this is what we mean (outsideonline.com)
296 points by teh_klev 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 206 comments

Opportunity for a lottery system: pay some significant fee, put in a few weeks hauling trash down from high camps to earn a 10 to 15% chance at trying to summit during the next season. Unlucky entrants are welcome to pay fee and cleanup to try again another year, and the mountain ends up cleaner.

This is how they manage alligator tags in my state, and I've heard of similar systems in other states for scarce wildlife tags, so that type of method for preservation of resources isn't at all unheard of.

Each year you pay some fee ($10 for this gator tag), are entered into a lottery. If are not issued a tag you receive a preference point. If you are issued a tag you get the tag, go back to 0 points. Some states use points as tickets in a drawing system, and some use the points as levels, e.g. all 5 pointers get tags, then 4 pointers, and so on until you run into the first "less tags than people" level at which point you do a drawing.

I love the idea of adding in a volunteering component to help improve the area.

Excellent idea! Bonus for frozen turds, yellow snow, and body parts.

Very close to 0 people would do that.

You have to pay money, then become a janitor just for a chance.

Isn't that the point of such a system, to reduce traffic and still allow dedicated climbers to summit?

But that's the whole point!

I feel like, at this point, climbing Everest is starting to become morally questionable. There has been much reporting that Everest is starting to have a serious trash problem, as well as having many dead bodies strewn all over the path to the top. Any climber, even the most ethical and concientious, is just going to make these problems worse, as well as making it less safe because of crowding situations like this.

If you're thinking of climbing Everest: just don't. Climb some other mountain. There are lots of them. Let's leave this one be.

I don't see what's unethical about it. The only thing you're ruining by going to Everest is the experience of others going up Everest. Locals don't live up there. There's do delicate ecosystem to trample. It's just rock, ice, garbage and a lineup.

That's a very interesting viewpoint on the matter. Previously I had just nodded along with the "Everest getting spoiled" stories, but you have made me think a little deeper, so thanks!

I wonder if a lot of these appeals for people to stop climbing Everest are from climbers who want everyone ELSE to stop climbing Everest.

I've never had any desire to climb Everest. Got my sights set on Olympus Mons...

It is one of the great wonders of the natural world, and it is a place that many people hold to be very special. It is, in a way, an almost "sacred" place, in a weird secular sense. It is not just any other mountain. There's a reason people are queueing up to see the summit.

Maybe I'm a crazy person, but I think that we have a moral obligation to protect the great natural wonders of the world. You can visit them, sure, but only if you do so in a responsible way that ensures their preservation. I do not see how that's possible with Everest any more. History has shown that there is no way to guarantee that you will not be forced (by circumstance alone) to leave trash on the mountain. That trash, by the way, will become essentially unrecoverable: it will likely be there for decades or centuries.

Same thing with your human body: if you want to risk your life, that's fine. If you want to drag others into your idiotic quest to pretend to be Edmund Hillary, that is also fine (as long as they do so full consent and knowing the risks). What is not fine is that if you do die, your body will be essentially unrecoverable, and it will also litter the mountain for decades or centuries.

If you care AT ALL about preserving Everest (and I suspect most people do), I claim there's no morally permissible way to climb this mountain. Leave it alone. Go climb something where you can make sure you can take your refuse with you, and where your dead corpse can be recovered.

> It is, in a way, an almost "sacred" place, in a weird secular sense

Apart from _actually_ being a sacred place for the local people. Tibetan natives called it Chomolungma, meaning "Goddess Mother of Mountains".

Climbers have tons of ethical norms that are precisely about not ruining anything for those after and not changing things that exists in nature. Regardless of how few people climb up there.

> If you're thinking of climbing Everest: just don't. Climb some other mountain. There are lots of them. Let's leave this one be.

There are lots of them, but among ones over 8,000 meters tall, Everest is reportedly one of the safest and least difficult to climb. The best routes for shuttling people to the top are well-known and about as well-groomed as is possible at that altitude. It's already littered with tattered ropes and spent oxygen bottles and, yes, dead bodies. And there is a decent amount of industry built up around the operation. Many people's livelihoods are based on it.

Sending people to other mountains would not increase safety, it would spread the pollution to other places, it would leave the more serious high-altitude mountaineers with fewer mountains to call their own, and it would probably still not be all that effective at diverting the mess away from Everest itself, because everyone knows that Everest's summit is the top.

From an environmental standpoint I would prefer if tourists stick to Everest and its well trodden path. It has decent infrastructure and confines the the strewn dead bodies, trash and tourists to one place.

Keep our faeces/species contained.

Not only is climbing Everest becoming morally questionable, it's also just not impressive anymore. It used to be quite a feat. Now you're just one in a crowd of instagrammers.

If you want to do something impressive, climbing Everest is no longer that thing.

It's still not something to be taken lightly, and it will take a lot of training, preparation and equipment to do it.

So basically a marathon but with enough extra gear and travel expenses that you'll never have have to worry about a poor person saying they did it too.

Some people are impressed by money / spending. And climbing everest means spending a lot.

That's true. But buying a Lamborghini and a big mansion would be a quicker and more effective way to show off with wealth.

> If you're thinking of climbing Everest: just don't. Climb some other mountain. There are lots of them. Let's leave this one be.

No. That is ridiculous, I have as much right to climb it as anyone else, if it pleases me I'll do it. Like you said, there are lots of mountains so I can choose this particular one like I would any other.

You do not own Mount Everest, you have no right to it. I don't know why you think this, but that is delusional. You can go there because the Nepal allows it, but it is in no way your "right" to do so. Becoming an adult is recognizing you cannot do every thing that pleases you.

Besides, I was speaking in a moral sense, not a legal sense. What your rights are is not a relevant question. If preserving natural wonders is not a moral prerogative for you, then we're just going to have to disagree on that point.

And what right do you have to ask him to not climb it?

It's one thing to ask for consideration, it's another to sermonize about how others are delusional while engaging in the same obnoxious behavior yourself.

On a broader topic, the fact that it happens to be geographically located in Nepal does give the country the legal right to dictate who visits it, but let's not delude ourself into thinking that translates into a moral right.

The Everest belongs to all of humanity, it's a physical feature and if you want to make it sound like everyone's responsibility, it ought to be considered everyone's asset too.

If everyone stops climbing it, who are we saving it for? Who is going to see the natural wonder? I certainly agree that we should do the best we can to preserve it and others like it, but it doesn't really make sense to say, well no one should go there so that it stays nice. Who cares if it's nice if no one can go there?

I meant moral right too, of course the country has the right to regulate who and when anyone gets to visit. Thankfully as of the time of this post they're fine with you and I going there.

That said: our morals are clearly different and I will do nothing but mock any attempts of any individual to impose their morals on anyone else.

How will "the most ethical and concientious" climber contribute to the trash problem? Is there something special about the Everest that makes leaving trash behind inevitable?

You should read «Into thin air». It might be a matter of life or deathto carry a few more kg down. Also, you can't help people too tired to make it and dying on the side : you would die with them. They all know it and accept it I guess.

I don't recommend it. This mountain is much easier than many others because of all the other people, support, & development around it. It's the Disneyland of mountaineering.

If you get into hot water on Everest, you are in a MUCH better scenario than getting into hot water on the 5th tallest mountain.

Leaving trash in a place approximately zero people ever go is morally very similar to leaving trash in a landfill. It doesn’t harm anyone or anything.

Why are you so unconcerned about other mountains?

It's not. When you leave trash in a mountain, you leave it upstream from other places. At some point it is going to taint streams and/or go down. There are people leaving downstream who are going to have to leave with the consequences of that trash.

> When you leave trash in a mountain, you leave it upstream from other places. At some point it is going to taint streams and/or go down. There are people leaving downstream who are going to have to leave with the consequences of that trash.

This is a stronger argument as to mountains that are low enough to experience snowmelt.

Are you suggesting "approximately zero people ever go" to Everest under an article about how Everest is overcrowded?

The article is more about how “500-1000 people per year (<400 tourists, plus hired staff)” is “crowded” for that mountain or particular route.

Considering the population of Earth, the scale of human cities, the permanent settlements and residents along the path, and other such factors: yes, that is precisely what I mean.

It's starting to look a lot like Half Dome:


Natural places don't seem like a scalable form of entertainment.

They should string up a whole lot of lines so people can spider up the rocks from different directions, then it would be web scale.

Or they could solve it by sharding Half Dome into 32768 little distributed 1/65536 Domes.

It worked for the Berlin Wall!

Nature tourism needs to be scaled horizontally. There are plenty of beautiful places to go, just not everyone can go to the same few places.

On the other hand if we concentrate nature tourism to a handful of places then all those other beautiful places will be left alone and remain beautiful. Everybody dumping their trash on Everest means that there's no trash on any of the other mountains.

For many, the beauty is derived from the uniqueness or low supply of the features of the place. Whether it’s status signaling or genuinely wanting to see it in person, the limited quantity of great waterfalls, accessible and scenic mountains, sunsets, clear blue green water on a white sand beach, combined with good weather, will never be able to be substituted with ever abundant plains or deserts.

Landscape of Hawaii will be more popular than Nebraska, unless maybe 90% of the world looked like Hawaii and 10% like Nebraska.

> Nature tourism needs to be scaled horizontally.

Fuck no. Tourism is a vampiric money-making enterprise that absolutely ruins that which it attempts to make accessible.

I'm gonna have to disagree, I live in East Tennessee and Dolly Parton opening Dollywood right outside Great Smoky Mountain National Park created a booming tourism economy here when we used to be one of the poorest places of the country. And now Big Moonshine, who got big on a lot of those tourism dollars in the past decade or so, is turning around and dumping money into revitalizing lots of East TN cities that used to be total dumps (who knew Johnson City could be so cute?!), as well as pouring tons of money into boosting Knoxville's already strong arts and crafts scene. Tourism has absolutely been East Tennessee's salvation. All you gotta do to see that is cross the border into eastern Kentucky, left behind and still one of the poorest parts of this country.

Sure, tourism ruins a lot of shit, but tourist dollars have improved the quality of life for millions and millions of people all over the world.

Sure, some of the money from tourism helps local economies, if there are already local economies that can provide, e.g. food and hotels and such. But in Third World countries, which wasn't clear from my OP, tourism has annihilated people's way of life and thrown millions of people off their native lands--in particular in island countries where beachfront property brings in tons of rich westerners who end up creating an over-economy where the vast majority of money stays in an upper class. Sure, there are middle-class jobs then available, like cleaning toilets and stocking hotel rooms. But fisherman, mom-and-pop shops, farmers, all of them, kicked out and their lands taken over because it is just too damn profitable to turn into resorts and such. Sad.

Enterprise or not, people like novelties, want to experience other places, wonders of the world, etc.

And of course since we specialize, it's not surprising that this too became something that produces a surplus.

It's up to society and culture as a whole to protect and preserve said wonders. (From park rangers to laws and entrance limits and lotteries.)

Yeah, it was exactly like then when I visited as well. One of our group of 4 was rational enough to not attempt the summit which was awfully crowded.

Sure enough, when I was halfway up, some person above me panicked and wanted to go back down and everybody had to step to the side to let them through :-\

To be fair, the hike to Half Dome is about ~18 miles (9 each way) and only the very last bit is super crowded. If you skip the cables you still have experienced 99% of one of this country's most beautiful hikes.

Isn't Everest kind of the same? The trails to the various base camps are less crowded since there's less severe weather to contend with so people can spread out more, but when the conditions are right, everyone makes a break for the summit at the same time.

If you skip the cables you still have experienced 99% of one of this country's most beautiful hikes.

If you skip the Everest summit, you've still experienced 99% of one of the worlds most difficult (yet still approachable) climbs. But just like Half Dome, most people go there to summit, not to do a scenic hike.

The view from the top of Half Dome is spectacular. I'm glad I went to the top, but I don't think I'd attempt it again due to the crowds.

True, although I think most people would be much sadder about missing the 1% of Everest. The whole reason to go there is to stand at the top of the world's highest mountain. If you just wanted a beautiful climb, there are many less dangerous/expensive places to go.

Was at half dome 2 days ago. Brought my snowshoes, sub dome completely covered in snow. Very slippery in hiking shoes, no crowds.

Everest is so fascinating because it makes the simplest things so hard and dangerous. A man literally died waiting in line too long.

Guy was British IIRC.

Fuck me that's funny. Well done.

waiting in queue

I personally experience this problem on a daily basis.

I am a professional diving guide and instructor working at on a small island in the South China Sea.

For me it is very difficult to balance the sense of pride and joy of creating new environmentalists every day who learn to value our precious and rare remaining reefs against the anger and revulsion I feel towards the selfie crowd that stomps all over coral and harasses wildlife on a daily basis.

Tourism is a necessary evil in many places, without it my island would be in poverty and its people living off the reef for daily nutrition instead of protecting it.

I don't know what the long term solution is, but there are definitely days where I wonder if I am doing the right thing.

Here's a good blog with a breakdown of costs to climb Everest and how they're evolving: http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2018/12/17/how-much-does-it-...

Sounds like 2019 is the year of China exerting full control over the Tibet-side approach:

"In my mind climbing in Tibet has just become more expensive and more controlled. While the intent of some of this is good (trash, centralized rescue) others are onerous in nature and can result in unexpected expenses. Climbing Everest from the North or Tibet side was historically seen as cheaper, wilder, freer and more independent than the Nepal side. Well, that ship has sailed. If you want a more independent 8,000-meter climb, Everest is no longer on the table. Take a look at Makalu or Dhaulagiri."

This immediately reminded me of Yvon Chouinard quote from 180 Degrees South documentary:

"Taking a trip for six months, you get in the rhythm of it. It feels like you can go on forever doing that. Climbing Everest is the ultimate and the opposite of that. Because you get these high-powered plastic surgeons and CEOs, and you know, they pay $80,000 and have Sherpas put the ladders in place and 8,000 feet of fixed ropes and you get to the camp and you don’t even have to lay out your sleeping bag. It’s already laid out with a chocolate mint on the top. The whole purpose of planning something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain and if you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back.”

It's clearly not the "whole purpose" for some people. For some people it's just an incredible experience, and not some spiritual journey.

Admittedly only been four of those places, but they where nowhere near as bad as those pictures show. Those photos all seem to of the most crowded space the photographer could find in the middle of peak tourist season.

I've been to about half of those destinations quite a long time ago. My young adulthood memories now ruined by seeing what has happened to them.

'You aren't stuck in traffic. You are traffic.'

It's like the opposite of the "long tail" — I don't know what to call it.

The fact that the top few attractions, events etc attract a disproportionate amount of people.

If you want to escape into nature for example - don't fly across the country or world to go to the #1 prominent or obvious place. Get out anywhere, close to you or new to you, maybe new to most people.

It a power law[1]. The 'long tail' is part of the power law graph.


This concept is usually called a power law distribution.

"fat head"

Climbing the seven summits is one of my life goals, and I'm doing a lot of research on Everest. I have been to the Everest base camp and Annapurna base camp.

Unfortunate mont Everest is no longer the great achievement it once was. The risk is still there (the riskiest being you running out of oxygen), but don't expect the thrill of wandering a mountain and using your survival skills there.

There was a story a few weeks back that a Sherpa gave his own supply of oxygen to save a Malaysian tourist. There are many stories that are borderline human abuse for Sherpas.

For a great hike, I can't recommend PCT and AT trails in North America enough! For Europe, you have GR-20 (one of the best experiences in my while life), Pyrenees, etc. They won't get you to great elevations but they all out yourself with breathtaking views, challenges, and getting to know some amazing people.

For the toughest hikers out there, Puncak Jaya (East of Indonesian archipelago) puts your everything up for the riskiest yet most rewarding challenge.

Nepal should sign a Swiss concessionaire to turn Base Camp into a tourist destination and build a cable car as high as possible. Charge a lot.

Limit the number of climbing licenses to what the mountain can bear and charge the market-clearing price.

Use part of the profit to keep Everest clean.

Also offer a $1.5 million copter ride to the summit.

Nepal is poor and needs the money, and this would be better for the environment.

Thought your comment on helicopter rides to the summit of Everest was interesting so I looked it up, only 1 person has ever achieved it (twice) and set the world record in doing so:


Gotta get those Instagram photos.

Everest should host Freezing Man and Iyce Festival.

Humans - Racing to the top, while we drift mindlessly off to the bottom. This is the photo that should appear on the gravestone of the species.

TLDR: > Because of the intense jet stream that hovers near Everest’s 29,029-foot summit for much of the year, there are only a few weather windows, often two or three days in late May, when it's optimal for climbers to make a push for the top—forcing many expeditions to all go for it at the same time.

I guess this makes me fortunate. I did the EBC trek in late 2015 and it was such a wonderful experience. Hardly anyone doing at the time because of the Earthquake that happened earlier in the year. Can't imagine doing it when there are thousands of people in the area leading up to the slopes.

The article does point out that this is exacerbated by the very small windows of opportunity when it comes to weather. Meaning there are only a few days of the year where conditions become acceptable and then everyone rushes on those days. The rest of the time, there is nobody on the moutain.

Would that taint the experience if I were a climber? Probably so. But as far as the mountain is concerned these days are few and far apart.

I wonder though: since there is a lot of tourism for people who just have money and are not strong-skilled alpinists, are there other ascents attempted when conditions are only semi-favorable and where there are only a few brave souls on the mountain due to the difficulty?

The image is only visible with JavaScript enabled. Here's the URL:


Yikes. If I had to undertake such a project, it would undoubtedly be mostly about leaving all others behind. To be secluded. Alone on a mountain. The mountain. I can't imagine having to bear this sort of human traffic after all of the struggles to get there. Hipster style misanthropy is hard to pull off these days it would seem.

You can go alone(ish) to the world's second highest mountain, which is nowhere near as hip. The inherent part of getting away from everyone else is to not choose the same things as they do.

Precisely. I have always been at odds with my wife's enthusiasm for visiting places (travelling in the modern context) where hotels, tour-packages and worn-out guides define your experience. Unfortunately I can't suggest an alternative to her besides the lemmings path. (The top post on this thread is 100% my sentiment about holiday travelling. Hell is indeed "others".)

And by second highest, you mean K2? Agreed. But really these projects are out of my physical, mental and financial reaches currently.

Hm. Why don't you put together a travel plan? Or why don't you encourage her to do so herself? There are countless blogs recommending very specific itineraries (when to go, which place to sleep at, how much time to see what), yet if you book it yourself, buy the tickets yourself, you won't have that you are the product feeling.


Mountains. There are beautiful and amazing mountains, ridges, peaks, climbs all over the world, not just in the Himalayas. (For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orla_Per%C4%87 -- affordable as fuck compared to anything else basically, and still pretty challenging, yet no need for sherpas, base camps and O2 bottles.)

It's difficult enough to coordinate a group of 200 people under normal circumstances, being able to climb to the top of Everest by every single person is nothing short of a miracle!

It should be obvious now that climbing Everest is a vanity project.

And it's not even the biggest mountain from base to top on this planet.

It is the one that the vast majority of people will know as "the highest".

And the summit is not the furthest point from the center of the Earth.

Oh ? Which one is ?

Possibly Kilauea on Big Island. From sea floor to peak

A consequence of the time we live in. Some people have more money for such activities, so the activities become more crowded.

This will self-correct after a while. During the next global downturn the lines will disappear.

Currently on mobile so I can’t link it myself, but there is a Joe Rogan episode about this very much worth listening. People aside, there is so mich waste up there as well as corpses.

Basically this guy is saying "I went to Everest! Don't ruin my accomplishment by you going, too!"

This is way beyond ridiculous.

I was a nope before, but now it's a double nope. Asphyxiating or freezing to death because of a crush of people pretending to be Edmund Hillary seems like a big waste to me.

Look past the literal. This is a metaphor for what we're all doing to this planet. An action which appears noble when one person does it becomes problematic when a billion people do it.

You can opt out of climbing Everest (and most of us do), but almost nobody is opting out of buying electronics, burning fossil fuels, using plastics, etc. Half the people in the USA don't even vote, and a sizable majority of eligible blood donors don't donate -- and those are both free, and make life better in the community in which you live.

When we say "Earth is crowded", this is what we mean. We're living in an unscalable and unsustainable manner. We pretend that being just one individual of billions means the bad things we do, or the good things we don't do, aren't really our own fault.

> a sizable majority of eligible blood donors don't donate

You'd have to donate an awful lot of blood to make earth less crowded.

5-6 pints all at once should do it.

Everybody wants to live a lifestyle that presently requires burning fossil fuel, buying electronics, using plastics, etc. Two possibilities:

- technological advancement lets everyone indulge in this lifestyle without those externalities, or ones that are worse

- people voluntarily dial down their consumption (of food that has flown from across the world because it’s not in season, of electronics made with rare earth metals, etc), travels, and so on.

Both seem extremely unlikely and it’s hard to keep hope.

There's a grotesque disparity in per-capita CO2 emissions, even between highly developed nations. America produces 16.5 tonnes per capita, Britain produces 6.5 tonnes, Switzerland produces 4.3 and Latvia produces 3.5. Turning the dial down on our consumption is eminently possible without meaningfully compromising our standard of living, we just need to give a damn.


Latvia does not have the same standard of living as the others in the list. And still, 3.5 tonnes per capita is still 25 billion tonnes globally, and at that level, this planet is still super fucked. There are literally 300 million people in India who do not yet have electricity. Flip that over; if those 300 million people develop to European living standards in say, 100 years, we are well and truly screwed. You can just forget about it when you think about China, Indonesia, Bagladesh, and Africa.

The western way of life with global capitalism just will not work, the same way that growing watermelons inside of lightbulbs is just not going to work.

People, en masse, seem to mostly only care what their mass media channels tell them to care about.

That’s not being done in the US for consumption side-effects.

Electronics and plastics aren’t the drivers. It’s Transportation and electricity. We have the tech but not the willpower for electricity. We need to densify to get cars off the road. In many ways the single family home is the biggest driver of global warming.

But what if you've no money? You can't buy those cool electronics anymore, you are forced to spend on what is more important for a minimalistic life. Wouldn't it be better if we all had less money?

True. They should have a limited number of slots and choose via lottery.

That said, according to the article, these ascensions only happen two or three days a year. So it’s not like there are 200 people summitting every day. It only happens in very rare spurts when the weather is favorable, which is around 1% of the days.

That is why you gotta bring a paraglider chute. When shit starts to get bad you can just be like "See ya later suckers!" and spectacularly leap off the mountain in James Bond fashion and gently cruise back down to more sane elevations.

Gotta check if the chute works in this thin air first.

Why disparage the climbers? Getting to the top of Everest is an impressive accomplishment.

>Getting to the top of Everest is an impressive accomplishment.

It's not technically difficult, it doesn't require a particularly high level of fitness, it's just pointlessly dangerous. A substantial proportion of Everest climbers have negligible mountaineering experience and no real interest in the sport, they just want the bragging rights. You pay your money to an expedition company, you follow their instructions and they get you up to the death zone; whether you make it back to base camp is in the lap of the gods. About one in twenty people don't make it back. The only people I feel sorry for are the Sherpas.

This place is not a place of honor... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.


I am from Nepal. Our sherpas are making good money from it, no need to feel sorry for them. And it is better to keep Everest as a wasp trap. There are plenty of other mountains which are empty in the Himalayas to climb. If people want to pay to die on Everest, I do not care. It is just one mountain. I am happy to let them have bragging rights in return for contribution in our economy.

Great response. The fact the sherpas are indeed making money (better than nothing) is good news. I believe they ought to be making even more insane amounts of money though.

I wonder if the overcrowding has now increased the danger factor appeal?

Getting to the top of Everest without supplemental oxygen and without relying on fixed lines is an impressive accomplishment.

Getting to the top of Everest by jumaring up fixed lines while sucking down 3x the volume of oxygen Hillary and Norgay used is high risk tourism.

More of a wealth marker than anything else (who else can pay $45k-130k and take months off work to prep?)

It used to be one team was allowed a permit per year, but has since evolved to be a tourist mecca:


I read that some of them are basically babysat the way up and put everyone in danger just by existing there.

Sounds like life in general

Staying on top of your bills in an adverse economical environment like ours is really an accomplishment, especially if you add kids to the mix, climbing a piece of rock at the cost of tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for no reason whatsoever is just stupid.

> Getting to the top of Everest is an impressive accomplishment.

It's certainly an expenditure of effort and resources, which ought to require a an impressive accomplishment to justify it, but tasks, however expensive and/or difficult, aren't accomplishments, only (at best) the cost paid for accomplishments.

Not anymore.

I visited Spain last year after studying the language seriously for several years; overtourism spoiled many of my experiences. I literally fled a cathedral in Granada because the crush of bodies was giving me a claustrophobic panic attack. From my perspective as an independent traveler, the guided busloads are the most obnoxious because they do everything in unison. If you also want to do the thing the 250 bus-people are all doing right now, forget about it.

Sad to see the same thing happening on Everest. If I saw that line, I would immediately turn around.

When I was younger I thought travel was important to me. But after doing it a bit, I've realized travel isn't what I thought it was. It isn't that exciting and it's not some kind of achievement, other than the achievement of having enough disposable income to make it happen. The people who create things worth visiting--whether that's art or food or buildings or whatever--are people staying where they are and investing in their communities. I want to be one of those people, not the rich jerks taking up space and contributing nothing to the scene.

In my experience, it is incredibly mind-expanding to live for some time in another country (or countries). Really live there, have a job, rent a house, make friends, etc. It is a process of detribalization, that can help you understand better who you are, what part of you is just an artifact of the culture you were brought up in, which parts you like to keep and which parts you would like to revise.

Not less importantly, it gives you empathy for "the other". It makes you understand how similar we all are at the core and, paradoxically, how diverse our behaviors and viewpoints can be. And it makes it harder and harder to believe that you, specifically, were born in the place with the correct behaviors and the correct viewpoint.

Tourism is a farce. I guess it gives you the social status points of going through a challenge, without actually facing any difficulties or learning anything. You can have your photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, or that cute Buddhist Temple, or whatever. Maybe use that super expensive camera you bought as a toy (god forbid you use it to do something different, something that hasn't been done before by one million people just that week).

Tourism itself is a paradox: its gaze destroys the very thing it wants to look at. The Ramones could no longer rent an apartment in Brooklyn. Struggling painters could most certainly not afford to live in Paris these days, Montmartre or otherwise. Punk Rock in London? Only if you have a banking job on the side... The old ladies who sang fado from windows in old Lisbon neighborhoods had to move to the suburbs, because Madonna arrived with her entourage and every rich kid wants a piece of that "genuine" action on their Instragram.

Be a traveler, not a tourist!

I understand this perspective but I feel like it's unnecessarily negative. I certainly agree with you that living in another country would be a unique and mind-expanding experience, but not everyone has this opportunity (or takes it when it is possible). When I was unencumbered by a family 20 years ago, traveling simply wasn't a priority for me. My focus was on getting by and trying to get a foothold in the tech industry.

Now that I've got two kids and a high-pressure job, tourism is how I expose myself and my kids to other cultures and experiences. It is possible to do it right by keeping an open mind and not being "those people". I'll relate one anecdote.

A couple of years ago we went to Panama and stayed in Panama City for a week before heading to the coast. While in the city we read about Amazon jungle tours. Not wanting to end up on a bus with a bunch of people, one night I headed out to a nearby square and started chatting up people with the limited but decent Spanish I've managed to learn over the past few years. I met a friendly restauranteur, explained that we wanted to head up to the jungle, and asked if he knew anyone who could take us.

Next morning we all crammed into a pickup truck driven by an incredibly vivacious and chatty Panamanian woman (the restauranteur's cousin) and roared off to the jungle. The trip included memorable moments such as the part where a long, remote bridge was shut down to car traffic, forcing us to leave the truck by the side of the road and hike across in brutal heat. On arriving at the other side, seeing how exhausted my kids were, she told us to wait under a tree and took off. Twenty minutes later she rolled up in a minivan, which she had borrowed from a fellow Panamanian (a total stranger) who had agreed to lend it to us, free of charge, for the afternoon. She explained that she had a guardian angel that helped her arrange such things.

We were tourists, 100%. But my whole family learned a lot from the experience.

Be a traveler, not a tourist!

When you do it it's "tourism" when I do it it's "travelling". When you're visiting a place for a shorter period of time primarily for leisure, you're a tourist. Sure you can tourist in more or less intrusive ways, but just accept the label and move on.

the Ramones could no longer rent an apartment in Brooklyn. Struggling painters could most certainly not afford to live in Paris these days...

None of which has anything to do with tourism.

None of which has anything to do with tourism.

On the contrary. Tourism is a major driving force behind the large scale conversion of long term rentals into hotels via Airbnb.

Long term rentals require much lower level of attention to tenants. If owners are okay with switching from long term to short term and servicing their property, I don't see a problem here. It just means they didn't have an opportunity to enter hotel business before, despite having means and desire.

It's more down to what you do than if it's me or them. Doing stuff the locals do is not tourist. Queueing to take photos of the changing of the guard or that kind of stuff is touristy.

It has to be said that visiting tourist attractions often has much to recommend it over "doing stuff the locals do", which often entails pretty mundane experiences like going to the mall and eating at McDonalds...

Well, interesting note, because on the last trip in Sri Lanks I was in just another Buddhist temple, and I remember almost nothing of it. But then I was eating in a McDonalds nearby, and it was a really interesting. They had totally different menu and tastes, chairs and tables, peoples and ads, also no WC so I found it only at horse race track nearby. Not a mundane experience in any way. Churches, temples and mountain views are all the same after a while. Small details in everyday people's life always different and makes yourself to take a fresh look at your daily life.

As much as I enjoy seeing local 'must-see' sights of a place, I have to admit that seeing what a local mall and grocery store looks like is every bit as interesting.

Queueing to take photos of the changing of the guard or that kind of stuff is touristy.

Which part do you oppose the most? The queuing, the photo taking, or the finding of the changing of the guards an amusing spectacle worth seeing once in your life. If there's no queue and I don't take any pictures, is it still "touristy"?

The bottom line is that most "touristy" stuff became touristy because it was a kind of cool/unique/fun/interesting thing to see/do. I agree that if there's a long queue you have to balance how much time you want to spend against the value of the thing you'll see.

I'm not opposing anything. I'm happy enough for people to do touristy stuff and do it myself sometimes.

> Which part do you oppose the most?

The one where you lift property prices so high that nobody can live in the city centres anymore.

The tourists waiting to see the changing of the guards are not driving London property prices.

They definitely do in Amsterdam, and in London that might be different purely because y'all have an even bigger mess on other fronts, somehow.

> Doing stuff the locals do is not tourist.

Dictionary definition of a tourist: "One who travels for pleasure.".

Only because Londoners in the area 1) see it happen all the time and 2) already took the same photos when they were young.

This local goes the same places the tourists do because the UK is beautiful and the foreign tourists I meet have good taste ;)

Maybe vacationer would be a better term. You certainly aren't a traveler. You're not wandering around a place to travel somewhere. Just attempting to find enjoyable and rewarding experiences. In that sense you are quite like a tourist, and in the local's minds you probably are also about the same.

This is gatekeeping and bullshit one at that. I travel because it's an activity that I find enjoyable, just like I find many others. That's all the justification anyone ever needs.

In comparison, I also move to a new country every ~2.5 years on average because I get bored of the place I live in after a while, and that does nothing to reduce the enjoyment I get from traveling to new places.

That's an incredibly first world look at the world. If you are, say, from India, any kind of foreign travel involves visa hurdles, questions regarding your exact itinerary and purpose and who you will meet. Any longer than touristy stays will be looked at with extreme suspicion. Working is completely out of the question the vast majority of the times.

he talks to the first world. we from the 3rd world thought we were included too.

> In my experience, it is incredibly mind-expanding to live for some time in another country (or countries). Really live there, have a job, rent a house, make friends, etc. It is a process of detribalization, that can help you understand better who you are, what part of you is just an artifact of the culture you were brought up in, which parts you like to keep and which parts you would like to revise.

I did that, and it didn't "enlighten" me much. I think it may be because I was already very aware, thanks to Internet and the media industry, of an American culture, which is very different from my own, so I already had a good basis for comparison.

> Tourism is a farce. I guess it gives you the social status points of going through a challenge, without actually facing any difficulties or learning anything.

I never do tourism stuff (not out of snobbishness, I am just not that interested), but my aunt does, and to her, it's just a best use of her 10 days a year of vacation that she gets. She's working 6 days a week for less than a minimum wage, so the last thing she wants is a "challenge" really - I'm impressed that she does not go get lay on a beach somewhere and just regenerate, but prefers being bussed around Europe.

> Struggling painters could most certainly not afford to live in Paris these days, Montmartre or otherwise.

Why is it important for painters to live in Paris? You can paint anywhere and there's plenty of affordable places in the world.

> Be a traveler, not a tourist!

Please, please, please don't use this phrase. I don't want to be an instagram fueled "traveler" who ends up begging[^1].

[^1]: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4400790/Rise-Wester...

How odd. Nearly all of those pictures are not of begging, but rather of busking. Which you may also find distasteful but it's a completely different thing.

"I'm traveling around asia without money please support my trip" - how is this not begging? Also: begging, busking, in this context, no difference.

If you want to travel, have the funds. Why on Earth would I support someone else's trip when I could save that money for my own?!

Busking is playing music for money on the street. Maybe you don't like it, but it's not exactly begging. In other contexts, I assume you're happy to pay to hear live music performed.

> Nearly all of those pictures are not of begging, but rather of busking.

Of the ten pictures, five of them were busking (and of the five, two to three were pretty damn half-assed).

This is bullshit. What destroys the punk rock scene somewhere is the fact that punk was a function of a particular place and time, and every generation throws its own heroes up the pop charts.

What is destroying the ability of kids to live in London and Paris is a lot more complex, but has a lot more to do with plutocracy and the rise of moneyed anti democratic forces than tourism.

And as every aging punk rocker knows, the Ramones were from Queens.

The problem's not traveling or tourism per se, but rather the huge amounts of people doing these activities.

It would be great for many locations if half of the visitors would simply stay at home.



> Be a traveler, not a tourist!

Please don't make this worse by putting this idea into more heads. Personally I read up on the most popular TV shows and advise everyone to just stay home while I go do (something else).

> Be a traveler, not a tourist!

The way you describe "traveling" is actually tourism, just long-form. Read a book if you need to "expand your horizon," or I don't know, follow someone on Twitter.

Like, do you think wealthy expats aren't part of the issue? Sure, AirBnB has accelerated the process, but expat-driven price inflation and gentrification were displacing poor people for years before AirBnB exploded.

“Be a traveler, not a tourist”. Such wise words. Gonna slowly sip this in for the rest of the day.

You can do that by moving any distance that forces you to recreate your social circle (i.e. even 100 miles). You don’t need a language barrier and a currency barrier to force you to reflect. You just need to leave your echo chamber.

Echo chambers are like Russian Dolls. Maybe you are satisfied with just opening the first one. It's up to you, no right answers!

But it is definitely not the same to move to another city in your own country or go somewhere else where social norms and language are fundamentally different.

Have you tried visiting the north of Spain? I'm from Galicia, in the northwest. Fantastic food, culture, monuments, nature, and no overtourism except perhaps in Santiago de Compostela in the peak season. The same can probably be said about Asturias, Cantabria or León. Most foreign tourists come to Spain attracted by the Mediterranean beaches, sunny climate, and stuff like flamenco or bullfighting, which are southern or eastern Spanish things. The north and northwest are highly underrated (of course I might be biased, but pretty much everyone that comes here from abroad tells me that as well).

Come fast, before the high-speed rail lines connecting Madrid to several cities in the north and northwest are finished in 3-4 years from now. I cannot guarantee the situation will hold after that, my intuition is that bad infrastructure is a major reason for the relatively little attention these areas attract.

Not sure if you’re talking about San Sebastián and the Basque Country but they are far from unknown or underrated. They are, however, absolutely incredible places to visit.

I deliberately excluded the Basque Country because it is better known, and does have some overtourism problems (indeed amazing places, though!)

Asturias is fascinating, and, as you said, does not conform to stereotypes about Spain at all. Except, well, the food is as delicious as elsewhere in Spain :-)

I am happy to hear this - I will be visiting Gijón next month. Maybe a bit off topic, but do you have any recommendations?

Advice that is likely to work in most European places: know when is the tourist season. Visit famous places when it is not. During the tourist seasons, there are no shortage of very interesting places outside the crowded ones.

Vaux-le-Vicomte, which was the model for Versailles, is virtually unknown and a really nice visit. When crowd traffic jams happen in front of Mona Lisa in the Louvres, the medieval art sections, two stories above, are almost deserted despite very interesting pieces. Everybody wants to see Notre Dame, but there are about 100 monumental cathedrals in France.

The problem with any advice to avoid the tourist crowds is that it doesn't scale. If everyone avoids tourist season, then you've just made tourist season year-round ;)

Not really, as many people are tied to school summer break schedules, especially families.

Not really. Dilute a crowd of 1000 during two weeks in a whole year and you suddenly get down to 40 people on average. Totally different experience.

Peak tourist season is more like 2 months, and its not like the streets are totally dead in the rest of the year.

If we let T (tourists/day in peak season) = 3t(tourists/day in regular season), then we have about 1.3t if it all smooths out.

Of course, depends on where you travel, but the places I've visited have been pretty busy in the off-season already, adding another 30% of them would be pretty hectic.

New startup idea: modelling the ideal time to take a trip somewhere within certain metrics.

Notre-Dame in Reims is incredible, and you get to enjoy plenty of good champagne while you're there.

I was reading Amber the first time I visited Chartres. Of course I walked through the maze :-)

Thank you for that recommendation! I knew about the Louvre where people crowd around the small painting but there's so many other things to see. Did not think about finding an alternative for Versailles.

Similarly, Pompeii is overcrowded while Herculaneum is merely averagely busy and Villa Poppaea is deserted. All within a short drive of each other at Naples.

And you can go further afield for a similar experience:


I've been there, it's pretty amazing, shame he ran out of money to finish it off!

Well, there's not a choice anymore - everyone HAS to go and see those other hundred monumental cathedrals, after Notre Dame went up in flames a month ago...

It even goes meta. There are coffeeshops in Amsterdam that guided tour groups regularly pass by outside to stare in the front window and observe other tourists smoking weed.

Maybe the answer to sex tourists in the Red Light District is sex tourist tourists who rudely point and take photos.

This is a great idea for a comic in the style of smbc. First two panels are your comment, the second panel is "Pretty soon the meta-tourism got out of hand" <drawing of a tourist^5>. The final panel is the entire human population as a directed acyclic graph of tourists^n, and a small group named "the resistance" is looking for the single "tourist zero" a.k.a tourist^0 so they can murder him and end the tourist singularity.

I'd read this book.

I read "smbc" as "xkcd" and immediately aggreed with your comment.

This style is much more in line with what SMBC writes.

Thank you for introducing me to smbc. I kept hitting the "RANDOM" comic button and hit this one, which is meta like the speculative one: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2015-01-28

The topic is more SMBC. Both XKCD and SMBC routinely do X^absurd type comics.

Travelling doesn't mean having to visit all the tourist sites. You can travel anywhere and get a much more genuine experience by not going every tourists destination. You will have such a better experience. Especially like in your case if you studied/know the local language.

Yes, I feel like it's a bit selfish (no malice intended towards the parent poster) to complain about tourists being everywhere when you yourself are a tourist who also wants to see the sights. Obviously you're not going to be the only person in the world who wants to see something cool in a foreign country.

I think you're spot on. Consider the tourist-y American cities - New York, Boston, LA, Chicago, SF, etc. - most of the city dwellers have no care for the tourists because they don't spend all of their time next to attractions. They go to work, they go to school, they go to parks, etc. All of these are different in different places, and worth looking at themselves! It doesn't need to be on a brochure or part of a guided tour to be rich with history and purpose. And often, venturing out from the "golden path" leads to a healthy dose of reality (valuable!) when you see how normal people operate outside of the tourists spots.

I have lived in downtown Brooklyn for about 20 years. I live in Brooklyn Heights and my company is in Dumbo, and I walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to work every day.

There used to be a handful of adventurous tourists who would walk across from Manhattan and look around. Now the Brooklyn waterfront is on every single visitor’s wish list and it’s packed with people and selfie-taking nonstop, and almost overwhelming during busy summer periods.

I think it’s great. The Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline are stunning and I feel lucky to have this view every day and I’m glad more people are getting to see it. When I go visit the places they live and look at their great views I don’t feel bad about that either.

That's pretty much how I do tourism: go to a high tourism city/region (where the local culture has already learnt how to deal with it), then ruthlessly demote every popular "must see" to a "might see" and see what else is there. Some "must sees" will still be visited, but in a purely opportunistic manner. Turns out the colosseum isn't a complete waste of time if you randomly passed by at a time when there wasn't any queue at all, but if that does not happen there's no shortage of other things to see.

We have a Jeffrey Koons original in the lobby of my office building in New York so I'm very used to winding my way through tourists to get to the elevators :-)

You could try intentionally visiting places in off-season. I've spent years travelling the globe on a budget, and I've learned this. You can travel even in the most expensive places like Japan for 10-30$/day if you know how to do it, and still have most every experience you want to have except for conspicuous consumption.

I actually do agree with you that travelling has a lot or drawbacks--and I never would have travelled for this long if I wasn't a refugee running from bad things--but when I read someone say they gave up on it, it makes me sad. It has been an enlightening and beautiful part of my life.

A Chinese company recently invaded Switzerland with 12 thousand of its employees. It's just made. I'm happy the little valley I come from is still ignored by the masses despite a long and mixed history with tourism.


If you even have to use such rhetoric, at least get it right. These people were invited by the US company Jeunesse Global. Says so in your link.

Sometimes you have to trade up some part of the experience to be able to enjoy it. I travel by cruise (and trains) a lot, but I do mostly on small ships and off season. It's cheaper and I get to avoid the masses. It's very enjoyable and has its own perks.

I spent a month in Japan a few years ago, at the beginning of the year instead of the Golden Week when everybody goes and visited all over the place. No queues, no massive amounts of people (well, Tokyo is Tokyo), no stress. Sure, I missed the famous cherry blossoms, but to be able to visit e.g. Himeji castle and be in a room almost by myself contemplating was worth it. Had many experiences like this everywhere. I really enjoyed that trip and left feeling that Japan was even better than I imagined.

If you want to enjoy the kind of travel that a generation ago was possible, you have to do a little more effort and seek out those beautifully hidden places that the entire world doesn't know about yet. It's worth the hunt.

> [...] little more effort and seek out those beautifully hidden places that the entire world doesn't know about yet.

And then keep your mouth shut, as well as not post any pictures or videos publicly.

Most of the world is unexplored by tourists. Your comments are only valid for "some" touristy hot spots. If you like tourism, stop focusing on the mainstream. The Philippine, for example, has lots of unexplored territories that are "accessible" (relatively speaking) and has pretty much no or very little tourists.

I was in some small town in the Philippine last year. Got into a pizza restaurant and there was a mini-event the locals made where they danced and singed. That's some genuine experience. You can have lots of these because most people are going with the flow.

> Sad to see the same thing happening on Everest. If I saw that line, I would immediately turn around.

Unfortunately, in this picture, turning around meant to go back up, towards the summit.

If you want to flex your language muscles but still get an interesting cultural and historical experience try the less popular Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador or Nicaragua. I lived in HN for 3 years, and if you avoid the island of Roatan you will be fine. Of course, the majority of Central Americans fleeing to the USA right now are from Guatemala and Honduras so buyer beware.

We could really do with better words to distinguish between "wanting to go to a place or have an experience because someone else has done it", "wanting to do X in order to show it off to other people", and "wanting to do X in order to bring about a change in yourself" - because the latter in order to be authentic has to be genuinely unique.

Travel can broaden the mind, but only if you let it, and most of the ways in which it does are through giving you unexpected things, good or bad. The more tightly you plan, or buy a package in order to remove uncertainty, the less serendipity you get. You can't order a surprise for yourself.

Given this philosophy, I felt bad about allowing a tour company to plan my South American trip rather than booking dozens of transfers myself, but in the end serendipity worked anyway and somehow we ended up with two of us on an itinerary clearly designed for larger groups. Speeding across Lake Titicaca on a catamaran to ourselves remains a peak experience. Later on we got to Machu Picchu, which really is reaching critical levels of self-destructive tourism: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/may/15/archaeologist...

(There is also something to be said for both straightforward hedonism and the "precision relaxation" of people who go to the same hotel for 20 years to order the same drinks, but neither of those really needs or deserves to be allowed to ruin a local community or natural wonder in order to make it happen.)

Given this philosophy, I felt bad about allowing a tour company to plan my South American trip rather than booking dozens of transfers myself

If you're very lucky you can wind up with the best of both worlds.

I've been on an organized three week trip to Peru, which was nothing short of mind blowing.

The thing is that my sister in law is Peruvian, owns a house in Lima, worked at the presidents palace (which we were able to visit on short notice) and has a lot of friends and family around the country.

So while she had some of things organized (you partially must. You can't spontaneously visit Machu Pichu [which was a bit of a disappointment, but I digress]). But she had those parts, which needed to be pre-planned organized by local travel agents and tour operators. Obviously, knowing the language, the people and the place was extremely valuable for that.

So, despite that it was essentially a "package tour" it felt like totally individualized travel.

While some of the elements certainly can be booked as part of a packaged tour I don't think it could have been done with such quality and insight without the local knowledge.

Another thing, which I found can be immensly valuable is hiring a local guide. A guide and car in Siem Reap (Cambodia) hit me with about 30$ a day (& tip). Sure, you can visit Angkor Wat by booking a tuk tuk, buy a guide book and head off on you own. But you'll have to make sense of a temple installation scattered around 400 km/2 on your own.

Having a guide on my side opens doors to places, which I would never have been able to do on my own. Let alone of getting all the background on country, poeple and (yes) politics.

With regards to your disenchantment with travel, that's a pretty unusual band interesting perspective. Thank you.

Probably the true value of travel is not what you go to see, but the new knowledge and reflection about where you came from.

The same can be said for all famous cities during tourist season. Now, I assure you that if you go there on November (for example), most places aren't going to be much crowded.

> If I saw that line, I would immediately turn around.

Not if you were £30k in the hole for the trip!

It isn't rational to base decisions off of sunk costs.

Clearly you have never hitchhiked across a continent.

Tourism is a plague but travel will always be a significant human experience.

I don't want to be this person - but who gives a hoot whether Everest is dirty or not? It is probably in the 1% of the hardest places to get to on Earth list, and the only people that go are the rich or sherpas who are employed by the rich. I think China/Nepal should make sure some of that $50k+ permit fee is going towards cleanup for long term profit maximization, but I don't see why any otherwise normal person should care about it.

Repeat this comment 1000x to see how breathtakingly short-sighted it is.

Everest could be a literal landfill and I really wouldn't care. It's not some holy ground or a place people live

Shit on the planet and it will shit right back on all of us.

xkcd's comic from two days ago [1] is about the effects of high altitude. I ended up curious about populations at different altitudes and began reading about cultures with different genetic adaptations, especially Sherpas. It seems that freshly published material on the topic is popping up everywhere now. Youtube recommended a video to me titled "How People Have Evolved to Live in the Clouds" [2] which was published yesterday.

Is this a coincidence? Are all of these creators subconsciously inspired by the same source? Maybe there's a new TV show about Everest that I'm not aware of that's influencing interest in the topic. Maybe Everest related articles are frequently on HN and I am just now paying attention to it. Am I being played by the algorithm gods?

Baader–Meinhof effect is a convincing illusion.

[1]:https://xkcd.com/2153/ [2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elOn5ZYg5fc

They should charge $2,000,000 for a license to climb.

Yes, only the super rich should be able to climb it, unlike how they only let the quite rich climb it now.

It's already $60k. So arguably only 0.00001% of the people in the world can do it already.

I assume the reason you react is that you identify with somebody who could potentially do it (by saving a lot maybe), but couldn't anymore with the new price.

Thinking it's something everybody could do if fit is not realistic.

That's a hell of an assumption to make and base your entire comment on.

Summiting Everest is a scarce resource, why shouldn’t it be expensive? Limit number of licenses active during each week and auction them off to highest bidder, nothing wrong with that.

Or implement some kind of lottery system?

Lottery systems where price of participation is low are easily gamed.

Because then Joe 'CEO' blogs can summit Everest with a whole bunch of Sherpas and Billy 'been climbing since he was a teen' Smith is SOL because he spent his life climbing mountains and not hoarding cash.

Climbing Everest already requires hard work and talent. Making the $2M would simply be another achievement required to advance to the next level.

The first thing I thought of when I saw that photo was that Seinfeld episode where Kramer starts swimming in the East river. idk why lulz.

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