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'The Summit Is Never The Goal': Why Climbers Pursue The 7 Summits

Members of the Seven Summits Club reflect on the recent deaths on Mount Everest and explain how drive and risk analysis coexist in extreme mountaineering.
Alison Levine, a member of the Seven Summits Club, led an all-female expedition up Everest in 2002. Source: Jake Norton

At least 11 climbers died on Mount Everest last month, including two Americans in pursuit of joining the Seven Summits Club, a select group of roughly 500 people worldwide who have climbed the tallest peaks on every continent. Everest was the final summit for both Christopher Kulish and Donald Cash. Each died on his descent.

The deaths have sparked concern over Nepal's distribution of permits, dangerous conditions and overcrowding on the mountain.

But members of the Seven Summits Club who have experienced Everest firsthand say that this level of crowding isn't out of the ordinary.

"When you're going up to the summit and you

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