It’s become a clichÃ© to assume that individuals who aspire to perform physically grueling feats somehow embody humankind’s highest ideals. So we rush to applaud people who reach Everest’s summit and hold them up as worthy of our admiration.
Yet, as recent news stories have suggested, people who climb Everest can be a nasty lot. Granted, we don’t know what really transpired up there on the day David Sharp died. There’s been speculation that some 40 people may have passed him, but who knows how many realized he was there or was in trouble. Another key qualifier: of the people who did see him, how many were descending? Climbers can’t carry extra oxygen on these trips, so trying to save him under those circumstances may well have led to additional deaths.
By way of analogy, suppose you and a companion are on a boat, and it capsizes. There are no life preservers. You are a fairly strong swimmer, although not trained in life saving techniques. Your companion, on the other hand, is a poor swimmer, and panics. Every time you try to approach him, he attempts to climb up on you, which pushes you underwater.
At what point do your companion’s actions, even if they are the actions of someone “not in his right mind,” essentially become homicidal?
That said, it seems that at least one party passed him while ascending (I’ll get to that in a minute). So it’s little surprise that people now suspect the “code of ethics” among so-called high-altitude mountaineers is laced with a big dose of “every man for himself.”
And while leaving other climbers to die is the most appalling example of this, it’s not the only one. In another moral compromise, Mt. Everest is also piled high with garbage. The logic is identical to that which dictates dying climbers be left behind: the conditions are so difficult, climbers can’t expend the energy needed to carry out spent oxygen containers, food packaging, or their own bodily waste. So it, too, is abandoned. Garbage now litters the summit and its approaches–as much as 100 tons of it. (I don’t know if that figure includes the 180 frozen bodies of climbers who have died on the slopes.)
Okay, so you have strewn garbage and people left to freeze. What, then, is important to the climbers? How about disrobing on the summit? To “set a record.”
In fact, setting records seems to be what it’s all about. One of the parties that passed the dying Sharp featured a double amputee. He summitted and returned to his New Zealand home to “cheering crowds.”
According to a number of media reports, Inglis’ party passed Sharp on the way up, not the way down. So although he claims Sharp couldn’t have been saved, the fact is if they’d aborted their ascent, they could have used the oxygen allotted for that ascent to keep Sharp alive while trying to get him down.
Instead, Inglis set a record.
Climbing Everest. The new definition of baseness.
[tags] Mount Everest, David Sharp, Mark Inglis [/tags]