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A Different View from the Top of the World

Eighty years ago, George Mallory climbed Everest “because it is there.” Now he might also cite the ability to keep playing FarmVille during the trek.
November 11, 2010

I’ve always thought Mount Everest was just OK. Sure, vaulting majestically out of the Earth more than 29,000 feet is impressive, but then what? Like many remote locales, Everest’s natural “beauty” has been offset by a lack of conveniences. Until now.

Last week Ncell, a telecom company based in Nepal, announced that it had installed antennas at Everest’s base camp that will let climbers make phone calls, video chat and surf the Web at the summit. Which begs the obvious question: what took so long? For years climbers have felt off the grid simply because they were more than five miles above sea level and could wave at passing airplanes. Well, that era is over. Now successful mountaineers can call their friends and family, post a celebratory video message to You Tube and add old-timey mustaches to pictures of the mountain. And just because they’re struggling to stay alive at 70 below zero doesn’t mean they can’t keep up with the latest developments at the “wicked keggr @ Brody’s house 2NITE!”

We non-climbers are sure to benefit too. Previously the only way to know what it was like to reach the summit was to wait for someone to descend from the peak and describe it to you. Who has time for that? Now we can share the moment as it happens. Who wouldn’t want to hear the wind-blasted ramblings of a mortally exhausted person sucking in air with 40 percent less oxygen? Although ideally if they could wrap up the whole “climbing the tallest mountain in the world” experience in 140 characters and toss it on Twitter, we could all get on with our lives.

And a tech upgrade is certain to do wonders for Everest’s tourist industry. Let’s be honest, the place is more than a little out of the way, and the lack of adequate 3G reception has always been a bit of a turn off. I won’t even go to a friend’s house unless I’m 100 percent positive his Wi-Fi is working. But now that Everest is dialed in, it’s going to be bustling with foot traffic, which is sure to attract restaurants, bookstores, and artisanal salami shops, and the next hot gentrified neighborhood will be Mount Everest. Or should I say, “Everest Heights”?

Isn’t this our destiny? We have found a way to make Mount Everest just like every other place on earth. We have taken arguably the most difficult-to-access spot on the planet and given it the same interconnectivity as a Starbucks. I say it’s a sign of respect to the hill that the locals call Sagarmatha (which means “Everest Heights,” presumably) that we have brought it into the 21st century and allowed it to bask in the glory of our technology. Mount Everest used to be The Tallest Mountain on Earth, but now it’s something even more special: The Tallest Hot Spot on Earth.

Peter Grosz is a writer and actor in Los Angeles. He won Emmy awards in 2008 and 2010 for his writing for The Colbert Report and has appeared on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Image credit: Luca Galuzzi (CC)

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