Record Numbers Climb to Everest Peak

The most controversial Everest death in recent years was that of David Sharp, a British climber who froze to death in a cave close to the summit last year. He was climbing with a low-cost expedition but was found alone. As many as 40 people from other expeditions may have passed him on their way up, but most did not stop to offer help.

Those that did stop determined that Sharp was too sick to survive -- and were unwilling to risk additional lives to attempt to bring him down -- so he was ultimately left on the mountain to die. But there is still speculation that he could have survived if other climbers had been able to carry him back to camp.

Only a few days after Sharp's death, another expedition discovered Australian climber Lincoln Hall -- severely frostbitten and near death -- as they approached the summit.

Daniel Mazur, an American who was leading the expedition, ordered the team to turn around and carry Hall down the mountain, abandoning their hopes of reaching the top. Hall survived, but Mazur has said since then that his decision to turn the team around has hurt his guide business.

Norton worries the economics of Everest are interfering with what he sees as the only true measure of a successful climb -- making it home safe.

"I believe in open access to the mountains, but somewhere there needs to be accountability," Norton said. "I want [climbers] to know from the outset that my job is to get you back home, not to get to the summit ... no amount of money paid to get yourself to that summit is worth life."

A New Era on Everest

But despite critics' worries that the economics of Everest are changing the climbing experience, it appears next year's climbing season will be as busy as this one.

Chinese officials have already announced plans for the 2008 Olympic flame to visit Everest's peak on its way to Beijing.

And in the record-breaking department, a Florida grandmother is already training for next year, when she plans to become the oldest person ever to scale the world's tallest mountain.

Many of the climbers on Everest this year are blogging their adventures. Check out some of their dispatches from the mountain at these links:

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