A veteran climber reconsiders his view of the ‘Everest selfie’

Wasn’t summiting Everest a train wreck of amateurs and egos? The writer thought so until he went there—and was surprised at what he found.

Writer and climber Mark Synnott calls this his “Everest selfie,” although the person holding the camera was Matt Irving, the climber ahead of him. They were among the seven members of the spring 2019 expedition that took the north route up Everest, searching for signs of a climber lost there almost a century before.
Photograph by Matt Irving

I never imagined I would appear in a Mount Everest photo—but here I am wrapped in a down suit and oxygen mask, 400 feet below the summit.  

This may sound like an unlikely admission for a professional climber who’s spent the past two decades pursuing summits all over the world. Many consider a selfie from the highest point on the planet to be the ultimate trophy. To get it, more than a few people have risked everything—including life savings and relationships—and, tragically, many have died on the descent, with their precious images still locked in their cameras. 

But over the years, the idea of an expedition to Everest repelled me. The mountain came to represent the opposite of everything that I loved and respected about climbing.

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