Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why do men and women climb mountains... Everest 2006

Because they are there...

This climbing season on Mount Everest has been full of drama and tragedy. There are those who made the Summit, and many still on the way to the peak. You can read some interesting information HERE at Mount Everest.Net. More than 10 people have died in their quest for the summit, and this week there has been avid discussion about ethics of assisting climbers and those who don't. And we must also ask the question, Did the climbers themselves put themselves in Harms way and putting other climbers in the position to have to help them or make a decision "not to," to gain their quest of summiting Everest.

There are many sides to this question and it seems that it is a topic of discussion amongst the best climbers on the Mountain this year as well as Sir Edmund Hillary himself. I thought about posting this thread when it began, now we have answers and resolutions to some of the situations. It is never good that people die in their quest to climb the tallest peak in the world. I just wonder when the climb becomes more important that the people on the mountain.

In Nepal, the mountain is called Sagarmatha ("Forehead of the Sky"); This name was invented in the early 1960s (by Baburam Acharya) when the Nepalese government realized that Mount Everest had no Nepalese name. This was because the mountain was not known and named in ethnic Nepal (the Kathmandu valley and surrounding areas). The Sherpa/Tibetan name Chomolangma was not acceptable as it would have been against the idea of unification (nepalization) of the country. However, the ancient name for the mountain is devgiri (in Sanskrit, it means holy mountain) or devadurga (the English pronounced it as deodungha in the 1800s); In Tibetan it is Chomolungma or Qomolangma (ÓŻ×) ("Mother of the Universe").

My question is, one just does not approach Sagarmatha without reverence and respect, why did so many climbers find themselves on the receiving end of Sagarmatha's wrath? So many attempted the summit, and many of them failed in their attempt and many died during the journey. We mourn their passing and we question again, "why do we climb mountains?" I will never climb a mountain like this but I marvel at it on television, and I watch and pay attention during the climbing season each year. I could not know what goes on in the minds of those who climb and find themselves in peril ... I guess the adrenaline of the summit is more addictive than paying attention to how one puts their life as well as the lives of others in jeopardy. At least the climber from Autralia made his way down the mountian alive, but not unharmed.

Article #1 from BBC news Website
Debate rages over Everest dilemma

Dozens of people have perished attempting to scale Everest
A New Zealand mountaineer's decision to leave a dying man to his fate on Everest has sparked fierce argument in the climbing community and beyond.

Mark Inglis's actions were strongly criticised by Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the top of Everest.

Now other climbers and even the prime minister of New Zealand have weighed into the debate.

Mr Inglis says he is "gutted" at the criticism he got and has repeated that there was nothing he could have done.

Mr Inglis was initially the focus of glowing headlines after becoming the first double amputee to reach the summit of the world's highest peak on 15 May.

The trouble is that at 8,500m it is extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone anyone else... It was like 'What do we do?' We couldn't do anything
Mark Inglis

But earlier this week he revealed he had passed British climber David Sharp on his way toward the summit. Mr Sharp, who had climbed alone, was in serious trouble after apparently running out of oxygen about 984ft (300m) below the summit as he made his descent.

Mr Inglis said there was nothing he could do for Mr Sharp - who he said "had no oxygen, no proper gloves, things like that" - and that his party was the only one who stopped to try to help.

Mr Sharp was later found dead in a snow cave.

'A human being'

Mr Inglis' actions were criticised by Sir Edmund, who in 1953 conquered Everest's summit with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

"I don't think it matters a damn whether it's a member of another party - if he'd been a Swiss or from Timbuktu or whatever - that didn't matter, he was a human being and we would regard it as our duty to get him back to safety," he said.

Mark Inglis after arriving home in Christchurch, New Zealand
Harsh conditions were evidenced by Inglis's badly frostbitten fingers
Ed Douglas, one of the UK's best-known climbers, told the BBC's PM programme that the issue had triggered intense debate among climbers.

"I think a lot of climbers are very anxious about some of the headlines we've been seeing - climbers presented as an extremely callous bunch, crawling over each other to get to the summit - it's really not like that," he said.

"You don't want to be climbing a mountain and somebody's dying in front of you - but I suppose that people have a great deal invested in climbing Everest these days."

Mr Douglas said there were questions about the management of Everest, which he said was increasingly attracting people with very little experience of climbing and little connection with the sport.

'Ethics changing'

He echoed concerns raised by Sir Edmund over the commercialisation of the mountain, and called for guides and climbers to come together to create "some systems for dealing with situations like this".

Mr Inglis repeated his defence of his actions on Wednesday, saying Mr Sharp had been frozen solid and unable to speak, with the only sign of life some movement in his eyes. He said members of his team had spent time with Mr Sharp, "to no avail".

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark also commented, saying she had "considerable sympathy for what Sir Edmund Hillary has said, but he's probably also reflecting on the fact that ethics around mountaineering may well change over time as well".

Article #2 from BBC news Website
Climber's Everest decision agony

Mt Everest
Mr Sharp died as he made his descent
A double amputee who conquered Everest has spoken of the agonising decision not to help a man who died on the mountain.

Experienced climber David Sharp, 34, of Guisborough, Teesside, was on his way down from the world's highest mountain when he got into difficulties.

New Zealander Mark Inglis, said his party saw Mr Sharp as they climbed the 29,028ft (8,500m) peak.

He said there was nothing they could do for him.

Mr Inglis, 47, last week became the first double amputee to reach the top of Everest. His legs were amputated below the knee after he suffered frostbite during an expedition in 1982.

Third climb

Speaking to the Close Up programme on New Zealand television, Mr Inglis said: "The trouble is that at 8,500m (27,887ft) it is extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone keep anyone else alive.

"It was like 'What do we do?' We couldn't do anything. He had no oxygen, no proper gloves, things like that.

"On that morning, over 40 people went past that young Brit. I was one of the first."

Mr Sharp, who had climbed alone, was on his third climb of Everest when he apparently ran out of oxygen about 984ft (300m) below the summit as he made his descent.

Other climbers found his body in a cave last week, 1,000ft (305m) below the summit.

Article #3 from BBC News Website
'Dead' Everest man safe at camp

Dozens of people have perished attempting to scale Everest
An Australian man left for dead as he descended Mount Everest has left the "death zone" near the summit and has spoken by phone to his relieved wife.

Lincoln Hall, 50, was left behind by his Sherpas on Thursday after he began hallucinating and refused to move.

But he was found alive on Friday, and rescuers have now accompanied him down to a camp at about 6,400m (21,000ft).

He was helped down the mountain by 11 Sherpas and is being treated for frostbite and swelling on the brain.

Mr Hall was said to have suffered the swelling, known as a brain edema, as a result of altitude sickness while close to the summit.

He does not remember trying to descend the mountain or his time alone on Everest, according to Duncan Chesswell, a friend and fellow climber not currently in Nepal.

He's in reasonably good condition but he doesn't have much memory of things at this stage
Duncan Chesswell

"He's in reasonably good condition but he doesn't have much memory of things at this stage," Mr Chesswell said.

Another friend, Simon Balderstone, told Australia's Associated Press that Mr Hall spoke briefly to his wife, telling her he had suffered bad frostbite while exposed on the mountain.

She reportedly replied by telling her husband she would love him even if he lost all his fingers.

Tea and oxygen

Mr Hall, an experienced climber, reached the summit on Thursday.

Another member of the climb, German Thomas Weber, died shortly before reaching the summit, according to a statement issued by expedition leader Alexander Abramov.

During the descent Mr Hall became weak and despite hours of effort and the Sherpas were told by their expedition leader to leave him behind, Mr Chessell said, speaking in Australia.

Mr Abramov's statement said Mr Hall had died as he descended.

But on Friday, an American climber - Dan Mazur - came across Mr Hall and found he had survived the night, at more than 8,000m (24,000ft).

After giving him hot tea and oxygen, a radio call was made to Mr Abramov, who ordered an urgent rescue mission.

At least 10 deaths have been reported on Everest this season, close to the record of 12 during the 1996 spring climbing season.

Mr Hall's rescue has provided a bright spot days after a successful summiteer admitted that dozens of climbers aiming for the top had passed by a stricken British climber who soon afterwards died, our correspondent adds.

New Zealander Mark Inglis' decision not to help British climber David Sharp has sparked an ongoing debate about climbing ethics.


Blogger Echo Mouse said...

I've been an avid follower of mountain climbers for just over 10 years now. I was just about to get into rock climbing myself when illness struck.

Anyway, I read this in the paper the other day and was saddened by it. Interesting to note that exactly 10 years ago, the climbers of 1996, also suffered massive losses. Jon Krakauer wrote about that season of climbing in his book "Into Thin Air". It's a great read if you're interested.

Nothing has changed in the climbing community because of their unwritten rules - not to jeopardize yourself to save someone else. They've always done it that way and while most don't agree with it, everyone going to Everest knows it or should.

Personally, I wish the Everest climbs would stop. They pollute the mountain too much and the locals suffer great risks, often death, and make little money unless they are Sherpas. Those who do climb Everest...well that's a whole blog post on its own. Pick up Krakauer's book if you're interested.

5:12 AM  

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