Friday, May 26, 2006

Bottom Of The Barrel For Peak Seekers

No matter how high you climb to reach a lofty goal, if you leave a man to die alone, you're the lowest of the low.

Sure, the man who died put himself in that situation, and in a "solo" climb. But is that the point?

New Zealander Mark Inglis, who became the first double amputee to reach the mountain's summit on prosthetic legs, told Television New Zealand that his party stopped during its May 15 summit push and found Sharp close to death.

A member of the party tried to give Sharp oxygen and sent out a radio distress call before continuing to the summit, he said.
His own party was able to render only limited assistance and had to put the safety of its own members first, Inglis said Wednesday.

"I walked past David but only because there were far more experienced and effective people than myself to help him," Inglis said. "It was a phenomenally extreme environment; it was an incredibly cold day."
[Emphasis added.]

"Put the safety of its own members first"? What does this mean, exactly? I suppose if they had given the man more oxygen, it would be depleting their own stock, which they needed to continue to the top and return. But what if they had chosen to abort their quest, then and there, and try to get the man to safety or at least keep him alive while a rescue could be arranged and at least attempted? Would there have been enough to spare then?

In any case, Inglis may very well be right that there was "virtually no chance" that Sharp could be carried to safety. That's not the point. He was part of the decision to let a man die. Alone. And then he passes the buck afterward. Whatever Inglis thinks he just achieved, it's tarnished beyond redemption, as it is for every other climber involved.

It's fair to ask who I am to judge: I'm as far as possible from being an expert on climbing, and of course I don't understand what it's like to work for years to achieve such a goal as climbing Mt. Everest.

But Sir Edmund Hilary knows a thing or two, and he does understand what it's like, wouldn't you say?

Hillary told New Zealand Press Association he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb to save another's life.

UPDATE: Interesting discussion on this topic over at Althouse. I appreciate her citing the lyrics of this song in her comments section.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a Kool-aid drinker (though it's never been one of my favorite beverages). Sometimes I'm even OK with that.