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You see when you are "dead" on Everest, "dead" is a matter of condition in some cases.
May 27, 2006 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Would you leave a dying man to reach the top of Everest? Mark Inglis, who lost both legs in a climbing accident years ago, triumphantly scaled Mt. Everest earlier this month. About two and a half hours into the climb, they passed David Sharp, a climber on his way down who was clearly in distress and only hours from death. Inglis and his team left him there and continued to the summit and, as expected, David Sharp died.

Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary is displeased, and this fellow is lucky the group that found him decided his "weak attributes of life" were enough for an effort at rescue.
posted by thirteenkiller (211 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
BBCNews: "Dead" Everest man safe at camp
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2006


If I were a mountain climber I would be very worried that in a disaster the only people I could hope to rescue me were other mountain climbers. Because they are, you know, crazy.

13k - that's a different climber.
posted by srboisvert at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2006


It is indeed a different climber:

"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."
posted by squarehead at 10:06 AM on May 27, 2006


This guy was left for dead in 1996 during the events recounted in Into Thin Air; it sounds like having to decide whether or not to rescue someone is not that uncommon in that type of climbing. Usually, though, its a matter of realistically getting the stricken climber down more so than just wanting to reach the summit.
posted by TedW at 10:06 AM on May 27, 2006


Yes, it's a different climber. I didn't mean to imply it was the same guy.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:06 AM on May 27, 2006


Cathy O'Dowd left Francys Arsentiev. It seems that the samaritans
aren't good if they're on their way up.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:07 AM on May 27, 2006


It's an interesting moral situation. Obviously, if this happened in thick air, passing a dying man by might be the ultimately reprehensible act. But the fact, here, is that each climber has chosen to be there and, tacitly or not, has signed on to the ethos of the place.

(I'm not supporting this argument, just stating it.)

However, stealing another climber's O2 bottles -- that's wrong.

The latest case is British David Sharp. David vanished on his summit bid last week, and the only reason the world knew was thanks to a blog entry by his team mate Vitor Negrete. Vitor dispatched that David had died, and reported 3 more climbers missing on the mountain. He was distraught by the situation, including the fact that his high camp had been robbed. “All these events have affected me deeply – I even considered calling the attempt off,” he said. The next day, Vitor was dead.

In fact already last year, young Polish climber Marcin Miotk found several of his camps emptied in his lone climb of the mountain late in the season. Like the Brazilians, the unguided climber ascended without supplementary oxygen and his life was jeopardized by the thefts.

Marcin summited and survived against the odds, but made a call at ExplorersWeb: "I got my summit and I will probably not visit Everest North Side again. But I care for other climbers' lives. So I wonder what we can do together - to change this?"


link.
posted by docgonzo at 10:13 AM on May 27, 2006


In other Everest news -- 'Naked' climber on Everest sparks anger.
posted by ericb at 10:16 AM on May 27, 2006


There is no honor in climbing anymore.
posted by caddis at 10:17 AM on May 27, 2006


I take it that they don't bother carting the bodies away, which means that the summit approach on Everest is littered with about 200 corpses.

That's kind of sick.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:18 AM on May 27, 2006


At a party once, I met the climber/doctor who treated Beck Weathers when he walked into camp like a ghost. He canceled his own attempt to summit to treat him, I believe.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:20 AM on May 27, 2006


The other side of the argument (not that I buy it) is that the risks of helping an injured person down the mountain are considerably greater than summiting.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:22 AM on May 27, 2006


corpses aren't the only things it's littered with !
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2006


It's very difficult to judge when we're not there and I note the guy saying he gave him some O2 and radioed for help ---- but even if you knew he was a goner, there's something about staying with someone that I find hard to overcome. It's what we do in a civilized society; where possible we try not to let people die alone. I mean it happens in urban environments all the time I suppose but not usually when there is forewarning.
But it is hard to be strident in judgment from this vantage point.
posted by peacay at 10:42 AM on May 27, 2006


Oneof the interesting things said in " The Death Zone", one of several books around the 1996 debacle, is that the author felt unable to judge the actions of other climbers (not rescuing others) in these situations, that their own lives were hanging in the balance, that they may have been justified in their actions, and that all were there by choice which justified others not risking their own lives to rescue them.
While I see that point, and I've never been on Everest or anywhere near, I really welcome Hillary's comments. It seems to me that 'up there' climbers have chosen to pursue their own goals for whatever reason, at times ignoring others difficulties. It has become a selfish mans climb, stepping over the bodies of the weaker to gain personal triumph. I think these climbers need a sharp lesson in humanity, and the relative importance of what their achievements mean.
It is almost a cliche now, the death zone, but I don't believe it. On Everest it has become acceptable to leave the dying behind. These climbers need to grow up, get a sense of proportion, and of humanity back. I'll stop now, I'm getting too angry with these arseholes to go on.
posted by aisforal at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2006


My old mountain climbing teacher was on his 3rd attempt of Everest, less than 100m from the summit, and turned back to carry down his partner whose lungs had started filling with water.
Friend lived, but he never made it to the summit.
posted by signal at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2006


Perhaps before passing casual judgment against this climber, while we sit comfortably in front of our computers, you might consider the following.

If you were in the best shape of your sea-level living life, and you and your laptop were dropped at Everest without oxygen, you would be dead in less than an hour.

At Everest altitudes, the oxygen percentage is the same, but atmospheric pressure is about 33% of sea level; so there is 66% less oxygen. There is so little oxygen, Kerosene won't light.

Climbers describe the feeling as "Imagine trying to climb a hundred flights of stairs all day long, wearing 35 pounds of gear, breathing only through a straw". Just putting one foot in front of the other is a serious strain.

This lack of consumable material, seriously effects judgement and decision making. Climbers will describe not being able to remember or make the most basic of decisions.

So when passing by another climber in distress, in an area where one climber in six dies, it would be apparent that decisions like "If I try to save him or her, will I die as well?" will have to be considered.

Climbers deal with abstract safety considerations, and making decisions based in honorific ideas is a good way to end up dead. It would seem logical that you would have to consider your personal condition, weather, the condition of the other climber, the terrain.

It would seem that would be the unfortunate truth.

So before we pass easy judgment, think about the physical realities.
posted by somnambulist at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2006


Yeah somnabulist, but that is not the decision they make. The decision is not "can i save him", it's 'can I make the top, save myself, and then save him'
posted by aisforal at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2006


IANAC, but AFAIK, summitting is a team endeavour, with 'team' being something less than the entire human race. What happened to the dead guy's team? If I were in the climbing biz I'd want some darwinian backpressure to reduce the number of underprepared clients on the mountain with me.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:55 AM on May 27, 2006


"David attempted Everest by himself".

ah.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2006


aisforal, why wouldn't they stop and save him, instead of continuing to the top?
posted by parallax7d at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2006


thanks for the post thirteenkiller. you are cool.
posted by Stynxno at 11:12 AM on May 27, 2006


not sure what you mean parallax. I understand that on Everest, the prevailing custom is to do your own climb, and not get into other peoples problems. It has become acceptable to leave people dying. I don't like that, neither does Hillary. A lot of this problem is to do with the popularity of Everest, unprepared, badly equipped people etc. It just seems wrong to me though, to walk past a guy and leave him to die, while you are on your way UP the mountain.
posted by aisforal at 11:17 AM on May 27, 2006


the prevailing custom is to do your own climb

Provided you have four or five sherpas in support, humping your gear to ABC and beyond.
posted by docgonzo at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2006


I agree with airforal - these people aren't weighing saving people against dying themselves. They're weighing saving people against making it to the top. That they could come out in favour of making it to the top instead of saving someone else is revolting.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:29 AM on May 27, 2006


the prevailing custom is to do your own climb

Lame cowardly excuses. A man died who could have been saved. End of story.
posted by slatternus at 11:34 AM on May 27, 2006


Every time I read of extreme athletes leaving their comrades to die, I'm reminded of Giovanni Soldini's actions in the 1998/99 Around Alone race.

Autissier had capsized in a remote and isolated region of the ocean, some 1,900 nautical miles west of Cape Horn and too far away for a national rescue operation to be launched. The Race Operations Center (ROC) knew that their only hope in aiding Autissier's survival lay in the hands of her fellow competitors in the Around Alone race.

The lead skipper Marc Thiercelin on Somewhere was some 120 nautical miles away from Autissier's position, but he would need to sail upwind-with gooseneck problems on his boom-to reach her. The ROC then turned to Soldini on FILA, who was some 200 miles away. As soon as he received word, Soldini responded immediately via email: "I am going. Now. Will not give up until I rescue Isa."

The world waited for 24 hours, while Soldini pounded into gale-force winds and 30-foot seas to reach Autissier. On February 16, at 1400 hours GMT, Soldini arrived at the coordinates of her last-known position. But in the still-dark area, he did not immediately spot PRB. Soldini started a grid-pattern search of the area and found the overturned hull. He circled the hull twice, with no sign of Autissier. On his next pass, he threw a hammer at the hull and awoke the French skipper. Autissier emerged from the stern hatch and deployed her liferaft for the transfer to FILA.


Keep in mind that Autissier and Soldini were sailing in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica - a region far more dangerous than the North Atlantic where the Titanic sunk. Each was the sole crewmember on a 60-foot extreme sailing boat. If Soldini had been unable to rescue Autissier, or if he damaged his boat in the process (very likely) he too would have been beyond the reach of rescuers.

Soldini found his fallen competitor, rescued her, and proceeded to win the race.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:35 AM on May 27, 2006 [14 favorites]


tragic.
posted by jann at 11:40 AM on May 27, 2006


That is amazingly awesome b1tr0t.
posted by parallax7d at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2006


While I agree entirely that this is a tragedy, I find it difficult to sympathize with people that put themselves in these situations. Maybe there is something about climbing these summits that I simply don't understand. I saw In to Thin Air. I read the back sleeve of the book. I just don't get it. Am I suppose to sympathize with people that put themselves in situations like this?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies playing russian roulette?

That aside, I think Inglis was far more concerned with how he would look to his adoring public if he didn't complete the climb. Thankfully, he now looks like a douche for not helping his fellow climber and his supposed achievement is completely eclipsed by his triumphant climb.
posted by RobertFrost at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2006


Heywood Mogroot: What happened to the dead guy's team?

He went solo. One of the news reports on his death states that, if you follow the links far enough.

I guess this shows why that's not a good idea.

It's worth noting that Inglis got chewed up a little by frostbite himself, so it was apparently a dangerous situation (albeit not so dangerous he didn't finish the climb.) However, I have to wonder if the oxygen that got their party up and down that last 1000 feet couldn't have gotten Sharp down a couple of thousand, and perhaps in range of rescue.

If you read some of the articles, the excuse given by Inglis is that Sharp was beyond help when they found him, but it's hard to say whether he's being truthful or accurate in that regard. Certainly many people would happily accomplish their life's goals over a pile of corpses, and no one will ever know whether they left someone who could have been saved or not, so it will be impossible to know if he's one of them. In any case, there would have been some merit in helping him even if he couldn't be saved, so they dying man's last hours could have been filled with hope instead of despair.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:04 PM on May 27, 2006


A man died who could have been saved.

It's impossible to say that with certainty. He might have been able to be saved; he might have died no matter the attention he received. (Which does not mean I'm taking a position that justifies leaving him to die. I'm just saying there's no way to know definitively that he would have lived even if Inglis and his party would have tried to save him.)
posted by scody at 12:05 PM on May 27, 2006


Should I feel bad next time someone dies playing russian roulette?

If you want to be that cynical, I'll try a few more for you:

Should I feel bad next time someone dies flying the space shuttle?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies going to the north pole?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies swimming the english channel?

Including climbing Everest, these were all big human accomplishments at one time not so long ago. I agree that Everest has turned into a macho, rich tourist kind of attraction, but the guy that died was doing a solo ascent, which is a pretty tough thing to do and worthy of my respect. I think the first solo of Everest was in '78 so it's still a pretty big thing.
posted by mathowie at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2006


The lead skipper Marc Thiercelin on Somewhere was some 120 nautical miles away from Autissier's position, but he would need to sail upwind-with gooseneck problems on his boom-to reach her. The ROC then turned to Soldini on FILA, who was some 200 miles away. As soon as he received word, Soldini responded immediately via email: "I am going. Now. Will not give up until I rescue Isa."

Thanks, b1tr0t. That sure puts the debate into perspective. The climbers are willing to risk death to reach the top of the mountain (while literally walking over the dying body of another climber) while this sailor is willing to risk death to rescue a race competitor.
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:10 PM on May 27, 2006


jacquilynne writes "They're weighing saving people against making it to the top."

Well this is were I'm ignorant and hold back from all out condemnation. I could envisage a situation (at least for many of them - and I guess it's difficult to hold a meeting at -100degC) where the decision is to either stay or go with the provisions/support; as opposed to the summit itself being the overriding consideration. Maybe I need to read the links a bit more closely. I'm only voicing this as a potential logical spanner to the 'stay with dude'/'keep going up' decision.

Oh, thanks for the post thirteenkiller.
posted by peacay at 12:12 PM on May 27, 2006


A compelling and engaging documentary film 'Touching the Void' chronicles the travails of British climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates on the west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.
posted by ericb at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2006


"Naked' climber on Everest sparks anger"

I'm always fascinated by what offends people. Apparently there is no outcry over taking money to schlep people up by the dozens and leave behind coke cans, oxygen canisters, human shit and corpses all over the mountain, but a man reverting to his natural state for a couple of minutes is a provocation.
posted by 2sheets at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2006


RobertFrost: Thankfully, he now looks like a douche for not helping his fellow climber and his supposed achievement is completely eclipsed by his triumphant climb.

Seems this fit into that old bit of pablum: Be careful of what you want because you just might get it....

This is messed up on so many levels. If they could make it the rest of the way to the top, they could've helped the guy down, no? Hilary seems to think so, so I say phooey on Inglis. On the other hand. He is a double amputee. So maybe he had his hands full just dealing with himself.

If you haven't seen it, check out the DVD for Touching the Void. It's one of the most amazing true stories...
posted by Skygazer at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2006


'[Ed Douglas] called for guides and climbers to come together to create "some systems for dealing with situations like this"'.

I thought, as human beings, they already came equipped with some systems for dealing with situations like these.
posted by falcon at 12:26 PM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


It's worth noting that other climbing groups saw this guy, and some of them saw him in much better shape (i.e. in need of help but still able to walk.) They shouldn't be held blameless just because they're not as famous as Inglis. Although I suppose before he was in such bad condition it might not have been obvious that he needed help or he'd die.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


The sailor obviously knew the woman he rescued. signal's teacher carried back down his own partner. There's a difference between going out of your way to rescue someone you know, and going out of your way to rescue someone you don't know or even particularly care about. Sure, there are some people who would do both, every time. But most people wouldn't. I pass homeless people who look close to death on a regular basis, and I never stop to help them. It's not because I think that someone else is going to help them (they probably won't), it's because it's just not my job to go around helping people if I don't feel like it. If you think it's your job to do so, go ahead.

I'm sure that it takes an extraordinary force of will to climb Everest. When teams are at the foot of the mountain, getting psyched for a climb that may kill them, I'm sure they're saying "We're going to make it to the top," and not "We're going to make it to the top, unless we happen to run across someone along the way who needs help."
posted by bingo at 12:35 PM on May 27, 2006


Human lives are more important than getting to the top of a damned mountain. End of story.

Sure, maybe they couldn't have gotten him down safely, but at least he wouldn't have had to die alone. That's a big something, right there.
posted by stenseng at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2006


The sailor obviously knew the woman he rescued. signal's teacher carried back down his own partner. There's a difference between going out of your way to rescue someone you know, and going out of your way to rescue someone you don't know or even particularly care about.

Although there are exceptions, sailors tend to render aid whenever they can. When I was part of an upstart college dinghy racing team (tiny sailboats in relatively protected waters), members of my team received assistance from competitors on several occasions. When Ellison failed to render aid to other Sydney Hobart competitors, he was heavily criticized from all corners of the sailing community.

A sport is what the competitors make it.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2006


On the one hand, this seems sort of cold.

On the other. There are literally thousands of people dying preventable deaths daily and I'm doing absolutely nothing.

Is proximity what makes this reprehensible? Even though they were right there, I don't think saving him would have been an easy task; from what I've read nothing's easy up there.

I don't know what I'm blabbing about. I don't have any answers anyway.
posted by ODiV at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2006


If you want to be that cynical, I'll try a few more for you:

Should I feel bad next time someone dies flying the space shuttle?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies going to the north pole?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies swimming the english channel?


Well, should I? Because I don't. This guy didn't something insanely stupid by trying to climb everest by himself. I really don't fault others for leaving him.
posted by puke & cry at 12:52 PM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


This made me think of Touching the Void too, but that was remarkably different in many ways - first, both survived so we do have both sides of the story, and they coincide; then, Simpson himself, while obviously not pleased about being in that situation, didn't blame Yates, in fact defended him from criticism. They were going down, not up, so there was no competition factor there. The situation they were in was impossible, and very unlucky (Yates had no idea if Simpson was still alive, he couldn't even see or hear him, and couldn't have held the rope for much longer; but Simpson was alive and well, except for the leg).

This doesn't sound like that kind of impossible situation that would excuse the climbers' actions in the same way, even if we don't know if the guy had a chance to be saved or not. You only have their side of the story.
posted by funambulist at 12:53 PM on May 27, 2006


mathowie: Should I feel bad next time someone dies flying the space shuttle?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies going to the north pole?

Should I feel bad next time someone dies swimming the english channel?


I would argue that the first two have very distinct scientific purposes. They venture into dangerous environments with very clear and, hopefully, purposeful goals. If they don't, then they have no reason to be there. How does climbing Everest or swimming the channel add to human knowledge and the collective good? It is an ego driven endeavor that, at least today, has seemingly no purpose but a nice view and a sense of pride.

Therefore, I stand by my cynicism. No sympathy. And Inglis is still a douche.
posted by RobertFrost at 12:54 PM on May 27, 2006


There's a difference between going out of your way to rescue someone you know, and going out of your way to rescue someone you don't know

Yes, it the difference between civilization and barbarism.
posted by LarryC at 1:06 PM on May 27, 2006


I just think it's cool that New Zealand put Edmund Hillary on a Five dollar bill.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:07 PM on May 27, 2006


"He is a double amputee. So maybe he had his hands full"

lol
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:09 PM on May 27, 2006


Climbing Mount Everest is an extreme situation, IMHO, where a lot of the standard "rules" may not apply. That's why they usually do this as a team. And even with a team, you are knowingly rolling the dice for the sake of an adventure of a lifetime -- man against nature at its harshest.

I'm not willing to condemn the climbers who didn't try to save the dying guy, if saving him was even a reasonable possibility. It may not be the choice you or I might make but under the conditions it may not be an evil choice.

Now if someone were dying on the streets of NYC and you could help but didn't, your actions are morally reprehensible.
posted by bim at 1:18 PM on May 27, 2006


This was on SpoFi the other day and my position hasn't changed in the least though the camp thefts are new news to me and very, very serious. David Sharp was a solo climber meaning that he had accepted the risks of climbing alone and with pretty well no safety net at all. Given where he ran into trouble, a place as inhospitable as any on earth, expecting others to put their own lives at very considerable risk to help someone who was almost certainly going to die before he was moved to a lower altitude from which he could be rescued or cared for doesn't make sense. The odds of his survival are far higher than the odds of someone in their group also getting into distress while trying to save him.

I hadn't heard about basecamp thefts, that, in my book, is almost as bad as attempted murder given the importance and scarcity of supplies at altitude. If his supplies had been stolen then I would, in fact, have a very different attitude about his death.

I respect David Sharp and am sorry that he died but putting the burden of his salvation on others who are also in an extremely dangerous situation isn't acceptable. His death is not the fault of other climbers.
posted by fenriq at 1:24 PM on May 27, 2006


bim: Now if someone were dying on the streets of NYC and you could help but didn't, your actions are morally reprehensible.

Exactly.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:24 PM on May 27, 2006


Now if someone were dying on the streets of NYC and you could help but didn't, your actions are morally reprehensible.


Fixed that for you.
posted by IronLizard at 1:30 PM on May 27, 2006


You should expect to die when you climb Everest. If you don't die, you should count yourself lucky.

And you shouldn't go if you aren't the toughest guy in town. If Sharp wasn't in condition to make it, he should not have gone -- should have been prevented from going, if possible, to keep him from causing trouble for others.

But anyone who just continues to climb on past when he could instead (or perhaps in addition) have helped someone to safety, besides being a rotten prick, is a cheater and should not get credit for the climb. Having to help someone to safety is one of the hazards of such an effort. It's one of the hazards of being human. Leaving a climber to die is as much cheating as having a team of porters carry you up the last 1000 feet.
posted by pracowity at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2006


Thank you, Iron Lizard.
posted by bim at 1:36 PM on May 27, 2006


Actually, let me amend that Iron Lizard to say if someone were dying ON THE STREET or some other more mundane place below Mount Everest.

I think we may disagree.
posted by bim at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2006


According to the Lincoln Hall report, a number of sherpas struggled for hours to get him down and left him behind once they decided he was dead.

May, 25 at 19:20 Sherpas have stopped the rescue operation proceeding more of 9 hours at height about 8700 meters. They have verified the fact of death of Lincoln Hall, on the basis of that from 17:00 till 19:20 he did not submit any attributes of life.

The next morning another climber found him still alive where the sherpas had left him, and now he is safe and expected to recover. The obvious implication is that David Sharp, whose condition seems to the untrained observer to have been similarly hopeless, could also have been revived. Certainly he was foolish to go alone; certainly everyone who climbs Everest assumes a huge risk and shouldn't be too shocked to die. Also, Inglis' team leader told the team to go on and leave Sharp, so we can't blame Inglis alone. Still, one wonders.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2006


I'm starting to think one of the reasons climbing Everest is so gosh darned difficult is because most everyone climbing the mountain turns into assholes who wouldn't lift a finger to help their fellow man.
posted by JHarris at 2:01 PM on May 27, 2006


Only sorta related: There are 21 peaks in the world over 8000 meters tall. Before this expedition in 2001, Lhotse Middle (on Mt. Lhotse, near Everest) was the last unconquered peak. There are some pretty great photographs.
posted by thirteenkiller at 2:03 PM on May 27, 2006


What bugs me the most about these white assholes that climb these mountains for personal glory is that their records are inevitably going to be shit in the pantheon of human performance, so why even risk and wreck your shit trying?

I mean it takes them a month or more, and most of them die, lose fingers, and get brain damage. They're crawling to the top inch-by-inch, hallucinating and half-dead, and on the other hand here are these fucking Sherpas doing vertical cartwheels to the top and partying naked when they get there! The champion Sherpa climbed that entire fucking mountain in 8 hours!

The competition is over guys, throw in the towel. You are inferior, all right? Please acknowledge this and live.
posted by dgaicun at 2:06 PM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Human lives are more important than getting to the top of a damned mountain.

If this were true, there would be no mountain climbers. I guess the people who climb Everest think they'll find something that makes it work the risk.
posted by SPrintF at 2:08 PM on May 27, 2006


The other fantastic sailing rescue story is that of Pete Goss and Raphael Dinelli. During the 1996 Vendee Globe, a single-handed round-the-world race, Dinelli capsized in the Southern Ocean. Goss turned around and sailed 150 miles upwind into horrendous seas to rescue Dinelli, who spent 36 hours in 3oC water. Goss proceeded to nurse Dinelli over the two weeks it took to return to dry land. For his bravery, Goss was awarded the MBE by the Queen, and France's highest honour, the Legion d'honneur, by President Chirac.
posted by matthewr at 2:15 PM on May 27, 2006


I'm on the side of thinking:

1 - One this guy was a bit of a muppet for wanting to go up Everest alone. He could have gone up Snowdon in nearby Wales on a train. But then Yorkshire is full of crazy people.

2 - The people who left David Sharp for dead are selfish twats. Simple as. Homeless people on the street are not without means of bettering themselves - some choose drink and alcohol and some are affected by mental handicaps - but there are options, here we have Big Issue sellers and dedicated charities to help them. On Everest there are only the few other climbers and thats it.

3 - This is about enough to make me want to go to war with those sheep shagging New Zealanders. I come on, who would miss New Zealand if it where gone?
posted by 13twelve at 2:22 PM on May 27, 2006


Human lives are more important than getting to the top of a damned mountain. It's one thing to put your own life at risk, criminally negligent to pass by someone in desperate need of aid.

There's a difference between going out of your way to rescue someone you know, and going out of your way to rescue someone you don't know or even particularly care about.

And there's a reason why people who do the latter are invariably awarded medals for bravery: because it's commendable and -- sadly -- exceptional.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:23 PM on May 27, 2006


It's that they didn't even try that is worst
posted by A189Nut at 2:36 PM on May 27, 2006


Ahhh...moral decisions. Human lives are more important than climbing a mountain.

ODIV has it right "Is proximity what makes this reprehensible?". The fact that these guys just walked past the climber...well, it was directly visible, so it must be immoral.

Please. I expected more sophistication from this crowd.

Human lives are also more important than that new computer dongle, fancy restaurant meal or any of the other bourgeois accessories bloating the lives of EVERY one of you. You could DIRECTLY SAVE tens if not hundreds of lives, by getting off your comfy asses and giving your money to aid organizations or working for them. By making that choice (in an informed world), you are morally culpable for your actions.

I haven't heard of many people round here sell their luxury goods, much less take a pay cut so that another family can eat/get vaccinated/have shelter. I also haven't heard many comments 'when I was in a low oxygen environment/sinking ship/under fire/other absurdly high stress environment' I did x,y or z that was for the greater good and not to save my own skin or promote my goals



So quit the moral high ground people. You ain't standing on it.
But yeah, it looks pretty harsh at first inspection
posted by lalochezia at 3:03 PM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Edmund Hillary climbed Everest because it was there. Why does anyone else do it? What are people trying to prove these days?

I think this is a very sad story, but it's not my place to judge the actions of anyone who is in an extreme situation and deprived of oxygen himself. It's all very sad, and also very selfish - why were these men up there anyway except to prove something to themselves? Putting yourself in danger for no good reason isn't noble, it's selfish. (And stupid.)

My sympathies go out to Sharp's family.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:14 PM on May 27, 2006


Now that Everest has been summited, it's not simply about getting to the top at any cost anymore. It's about technical challenges: oxygen, no oxygen, team, solos, assistance, whatever. In that context, putting another rescuable climber's life over your goal of your summit is another technical distinction for the climb.

It also happens to be one of a few technical distinctions that makes climbing this mountain a human—and humanizing—endeavor. If there is true honor in making this summit, if this is an accomplishment that should be celebrated, then that honor and that celebreation are dependent upon that technical distinction.

I am no climber and I haven't been folllowing this news; but I spent some time this morning at the linked site and reading various accounts and discussion and I don't think this situation is very comparable at all to either the decisions to leave some behind in 1996 (all were caught in a very bad storm), or at all to the situation in Touching the Void. This was not so clearly a save-your-own-life-first or a rational weighing of risks situation. This sounds to me like mostly indifference to a climber's death in the context of the importance of summitting when able.

By the way, one of the season's casualities was a sherpa. It is still a very dangerous climb for them, too.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:24 PM on May 27, 2006


Edmund Hillary climbed Everest because it was there. Why does anyone else do it?

Do they need a new reason? I mean, it is still there, right?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:28 PM on May 27, 2006


People will perform up--or down--to the level that is expected of them. Hearing the stories of sailors risking their lives for each other makes me proud of the human race. Mountain climbers can suck it.

This guy was attempting a solo climb of Mt. Everest. I'd put good money that 90% of the rest of the assholes ascending take along sherpas. He should have been carried down, dead or alive, if for no other reason than as a tip-of-the-hat to a real mountaineer, and not some rich, cheating enthusiast.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:45 PM on May 27, 2006


But the fact, here, is that each climber has chosen to be there and, tacitly or not, has signed on to the ethos of the place.

Wow, that's some nasty ethos - sounds like hell on earth. (I'm not talking physical conditions)

That aside, I think Inglis was far more concerned with how he would look to his adoring public if he didn't complete the climb. Thankfully, he now looks like a douche for not helping his fellow climber and his supposed achievement is completely eclipsed by his triumphant climb

A "douche"? - how about moral bankrupt. If the guy has any empathy at all this is never-get-it-out-of-your-head, nightmare, regrets for life stuff. (Agree though, team leader's gotta take first honors, I feel for both of 'em.)

It's that they didn't even try that is worst

Precisely, they chose to satisfy themselves instead of even trying.

"Is proximity what makes this reprehensible?"

Yes, proximity matters. It's about scope. This man was within their sphere of immediate influence and no one elses. Yes indeed, I'd imagine according most folks idea of a moral order, this makes them responsible for him.
posted by scheptech at 3:49 PM on May 27, 2006


Now that Everest has been summited, it's not simply about getting to the top at any cost anymore.

In 1986 a friend of mine mounted the first expedition seeking the remains of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine who lost their lives on Everest in 1924.

In 1999 climber Eric Simonson and his team found Mallory's remains.
posted by ericb at 3:59 PM on May 27, 2006


Sounds like 40 climbers should be facing manslaughter charges to me. Well, maybe not, but they could at least have tried to save Sharp.

How does climbing Everest or swimming the channel add to human knowledge and the collective good? It is an ego driven endeavor that, at least today, has seemingly no purpose but a nice view and a sense of pride.

Well said.

So quit the moral high ground people. You ain't standing on it.

I dunno. I'm sure that, in addition to spending lots of cash on pretty shiny things, many folk commenting in this thread give a significant chunk of money to charity each year, or do volunteering work, or similar. In my book, that beats wasting preposterous amounts of money climbing a mountain in order to show off about climbing a mountain and leaving a fellow climber to die in the process.

I pass homeless people who look close to death on a regular basis, and I never stop to help them. It's not because I think that someone else is going to help them (they probably won't), it's because it's just not my job to go around helping people if I don't feel like it. If you think it's your job to do so, go ahead.

Way to tell the whole wide web that you're a total cunt, bingo. I mean, you see someone you think is about to die and you can't even muster the energy to dial 999? (I must admit that on the couple of occasions I've done that, once I didn't bother to wait around for the ambulance, so I'm only a notch or two better than a total cunt myself, but still... wow, that's callous.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:22 PM on May 27, 2006


Also, the difference between the sailing and climbing fraternities (going by this thread) seems weird. Why do one set of risk freaks behave so differently to the nother?
posted by jack_mo at 4:24 PM on May 27, 2006


Inglis made the right choice. In those extraordinary conditions, the number one priority is taking care of himself and his team. People will be quick to condemn him since nobody likes facing the hard truth (particularly hypocritical city dwellers) but in that situation the best course of action is to stick to the plan and you don't entertain heroic fantasies that would jepoardize the lives of you and your team. It's quite remarkable how so many people in seem to suffer from this myth of the White Knight who rides in to save the day against extraordinary odds. Too many westerns and war movies, I think. That's not how the real world works.

Way to tell the whole wide web that you're a total cunt, bingo.

Eh, jack_mo, the only cunt is you. When I see you rushing in to attend to the sick and the dying and keep them company then you can come here and spew your righteous anger. Until then you're just another internet hypocrite.
posted by nixerman at 4:53 PM on May 27, 2006


Why is Inglis singled out in these accounts? He was one of about 40 other climbers, and was not the leader of his expedition. If there is responsibility, it is collective, not his.
posted by jb at 5:04 PM on May 27, 2006


it's just not my job to go around helping people if I don't feel like it

yeah jack_mo, that chilled me. And nixerman, you don't need to be mother teresa to find that way of thinking disgusting. We might not be saving lives on a daily basis, but we have the humanity to do what should be done, when it needs to be done. It doesn't make us hypocrites to call out the callous.
These guys, paying shitloads to climb a mountain for no reason but to glorify themselves, have made themselves a place where that kind of inhumanity is acceptable, even desirable.
Fuck 'em. All of them. let them all climb to the sky and die, with no help, no hope, no heart.
posted by aisforal at 5:06 PM on May 27, 2006


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kitty Genovese.

Look, David Sharp's body is still on Everest. All that come after him will pass his body on the way to and from the summit. Forever.

Maybe, just maybe, a climber will be saved by another climber that remembers David Sharp. Maybe then he will not have died in vain.
posted by frogan at 5:10 PM on May 27, 2006


When I see you rushing in to attend to the sick and the dying and keep them company then you can come here and spew your righteous anger.

Er, did you miss the part of my comment where I upbraided myself for failing to do exactly that? And are you saying that people shouldn't call an ambulance if they see someone dying in the street? No righteous anger required, dollface.

My language was a bit strong, though, sorry.
posted by jack_mo at 5:11 PM on May 27, 2006


the difference between the sailing and climbing fraternities (going by this thread) seems weird. Why do one set of risk freaks behave so differently to the nother?

Sailing is just generally going for a trophy for reaching point B from point A first. Mountaineering is a journey, and Everest is one more significant achievements.

Actually the best way to judge this is by the Golden Rule. I think plenty of mountaineers, should they attempt such a foolhardy challenge as "soloing" Everest, would NOT expect their fellow climbers to abandon their own challenges to bail them out of a foreseeable jam.

And if Sharp in fact did, then he is the 'douchebag' of this story. But his mother apparently said:

Sharp's mother, however, has said David was responsible for his own survival and she does not blame other climbers.

I for one am willing to grant dispensation to the climbing community to moralize their own system and don't need to inject my own ignorant opinions on it.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:14 PM on May 27, 2006


I just gotta laugh at:

Fuck 'em. All of them. let them all climb to the sky and die, with no help, no hope, no heart.

Mountaineers don't ask for your permission, and couldn't care less about you stamping your little feet in moral disapproval.

I'm a left-libertarian, not a right-, but I do think people have to be accountable for THEIR OWN actions. Had Sharp's safety been compromised by eg. unthinkable equipment theft, then perhaps the community owed him a heroic rescue.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:20 PM on May 27, 2006


It's not about what he was owed, but more about the measure of a man who is more interested in achieving his own glory than in his fellow man. That measure seems pretty low to me.
posted by caddis at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2006


Sailing is just generally going for a trophy for reaching point B from point A first. Mountaineering is a journey, and Everest is one more significant achievements.

What's the difference?! Mountaineers go from point A to point B and get the 'trophy' of reaching the summit, sailors go on a journey, completing, eg., a round the world trip is a 'significant achievement'. Unless you're using the word 'journey' in some sort of hippie spiritual sense, in which case that would seem to be doing a disservice to sailors...

I for one am willing to grant dispensation to the climbing community to moralize their own system and don't need to inject my own ignorant opinions on it.

Fair dos, none of us know what we're talking about here, but from the outside, they seem to be amoralising, not moralising their system (especially when you factor in the theft of equipment thing).

Oh, and he reason I get het up about this is that, had a random passer by not taken me to hospital when I collapsed in the street once, there's a fair chance I wouldn't be enjoying the luxury of arguing with strangers on the web, I'd be dead. So I'm just being selfish, really ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 5:32 PM on May 27, 2006


Yeah ok mugrrot, the wine's been flowing, and so are the words. But these mountaineers (and i've met some) seem to take some pride in making their own success more important than the lives of others. They revel in the deaths, it makes them look even braver. They have made a place where they can exercise their selfish pursuit of self-glory. They are welcome to it.
posted by aisforal at 5:32 PM on May 27, 2006


I'm just looking a the practical side of this. If I'm out in the back-country I don't necessarily want to abandon my plans to go help out some idiot fools who got themselves into trouble by being unprepared. It's that Golden Rule thing I was alluding to above.

From what I gather, summitting Everest is still a very chancy thing -- putting out lots of money, you still only have a what, 15% (???) chance of actually making the summit on any given attempt; the climbing season is limited, and the queue is long.

The particulars of this case -- Sharp trying this solo -- drive the "morality" IMV. There are plenty of stories of mountaineers helping out each other out of jams, so I find the wall-to-wall attacks on the community here somewhat silly.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:42 PM on May 27, 2006


Sailing is just generally going for a trophy for reaching point B from point A first. Mountaineering is a journey, and Everest is one more significant achievements.

What the hell?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:50 PM on May 27, 2006


(And the Around Alone race was, not surprisingly, a race around the world, in particular a race from Charleston, South Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina, and thus winning it might more accurately described as "reaching point A from point A first.")
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:56 PM on May 27, 2006


If I'm out in the back-country I don't necessarily want to abandon my plans to go help out some idiot fools who got themselves into trouble by being unprepared.

And if I'm out in the backcountry and something goes wrong, I don't necessarily want to have to be left for dead by some self-absorbed jackass who values a human life less than his vacation plans, or who automatically assumes that someone in trouble is by definition an idiot and at fault and should therefore fucking die already.

There is a practical side to helping one another out when mucking around in remote areas: it improves our collective odds of not dying. We get out of the habit of keeping an eye on each other, and each of us is in greater danger. In the long run it's in our self-interest to give a shit.

Or, to put it another way: fuck this narcissistic, antisocial, libertarian bullshit. More Hobbes, less Rand.
posted by mcwetboy at 5:59 PM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yeah, none of us want to abandon our plans to help out the fools. But if it happens, humanity, morality says we sigh and do it, not shrug and walk on. On Everest the shrug has become the norm. The limited chances of success do not justify that in most peoples eyes it appears.
posted by aisforal at 6:04 PM on May 27, 2006


Read Into Thin Air. Krakauer and others left Beck Wethers for dead. Twice. No one will ever know if Sharp could have been saved. Inglis at least gave him oxygen. Numerous other climbers seem to have ignored him completely. Whatever fellowship once existed among climbers seems long gone.
posted by theora55 at 6:18 PM on May 27, 2006


Also, the difference between the sailing and climbing fraternities (going by this thread) seems weird. Why do one set of risk freaks behave so differently to the nother?

Oxygen.

Everyone seems so certain that they'd decide differently, and I hope they would. The thing is, all the amateur climbers on these teams are basically brain-dead lumps of flesh following the sherpas like puppies, so it doesn't surprise me that they'd be inhumanly unfeeling. No oxygen = anesthetized conscience.

Sailors can breathe fine during the decision-making, so they're capable of the altruism we associate with higher brain functioning. They can be perfect Kantians right up until they drown... when it's common for men to step on each other trying to reach the surface.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:19 PM on May 27, 2006


or who automatically assumes that someone in trouble is by definition an idiot and at fault and should therefore fucking die already

mind the logical gap, there, bud. I didn't say I wouldn't want to help people out in the back-country -- being a follower of the Golden Rule and all, but should it turn out they got into trouble by being idiots, then going out of my way to help them would be a negative experience.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:31 PM on May 27, 2006


How did that scout motto go? Me first, others second, ...? Hmmm, I may have the order wrong.
posted by caddis at 6:34 PM on May 27, 2006


i begin to think climbing everest should be illegal. i don't give a shit about the climbers, really. just leave the fuckin' mountain alone.
posted by lapolla at 6:35 PM on May 27, 2006


"If I'm out in the back-country I don't necessarily want to abandon my plans to go help out some idiot fools who got themselves into trouble by being unprepared. It's that Golden Rule thing I was alluding to above."

Good lord, there is nothing liberal/left about that statement. It is hard-core libertarian/right. Heywood Mogroot, meet Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand, meet Heywood Mogroot.

And, anyway, I am quite sure this isn't the ethic of either the mountaineering community, nor certainly not the ethic of the general hiking/camping community. I've spent a lot of my life doing casual hiking and camping and the ethos in my family, not liberal by any stretch, is to help when people need help.

People, including me, may laugh and be resentful of some person's incaution or stupidity or hubris or that they have bad breath. We still try to save their lives if they are in need.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:36 PM on May 27, 2006


Um, wasn't Sharp judged to be a goner? Why do people seem so keen, then, on enforcing noble exercises in futility? Just wondering...
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:38 PM on May 27, 2006


What the hell?

I think there's a big difference between the extreme racing event upthread and the Everest climbing season. The guy who died tried to "solo" Everest, apparently. This put him in a different class of people than the other climbers on the mountain who I would assume had provisioned more safety backups.

The extreme racing event upthread, all the competitors were more or less peers -- all in the same boat, taking the same chances, so I would expect there would be more mutuality there.

From what I gather this solo guy was offloading risk and responsibility onto others, quite foolishly. To require others to abandon their lifelong pursuit of a goal to save his apparently sorry ass is not something I feel is morally necessary (cf. the Golden Rule).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:40 PM on May 27, 2006


He was judged to be a goner, but he wasn't gone yet, and the other story shows that sometimes those judgements are wrong.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:40 PM on May 27, 2006


E.B. I agree my position is more lib-right than lib-left, hence the but conjunction in my 5:20 above.

The back-country case is more hypothetical, since the I was talking about my desires in that situation, not the actual actions I would choose were I in that position. A ruined weekend to save some idiot from himself is one thing, there are many more weekends on tap, but I can see how a ruined Everest summit attempt is a different class of sacrifice.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2006


Incidentally, also to question this fascinating rationalization you've got going here, there's a reason why the law, for example, distinguishes between carelessness, recklessness, negligence, reckless endangerment, and assault. So does common sense. What Sharp did to others is not equivalent to what others did to him. Sharp did not fail to offer aid to someone who was dying. That is not the golden rule. Your rule isn't the golden rule. It is presuming onto another person their worthiness of your aid in a way that is heavily tilted in the direction of selfishness. "If I can see cause they don't deserve my aid by virtue of their actions or beliefs, in relationship to the worthininess of my possibly sacrificed goal, then fuck 'em".
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:50 PM on May 27, 2006


Sounds like 40 climbers should be facing manslaughter charges to me. Well, maybe not, but they could at least have tried to save Sharp.

Actually, American criminal law does not generally impose a duty to intervene to save someone in peril unless there's a relationship that imposes that duty (preexisting contractual relationship or family relationship) or the parties either created the situation that led to the peril or prevented others from saving him. So the question here is unfortunately entirely a moral question as opposed to a legal question.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:51 PM on May 27, 2006


being a follower of the Golden Rule and all

Doesn't that refer to 'Love thy neighbor as yourself'/'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you', which you seem to be arguing against?

Oxygen.

Interesting theory.
posted by jack_mo at 6:55 PM on May 27, 2006


American criminal law

I'm pretty sure Everest isn't in the US ;-)

I was thinking in terms of involuntary manslaughter as defined in the UK - reckless or negligent behaviour resulting in death, but with no intention to kill. Dunno if leaving someone to freeze on a mountain is the same as the usual 'dropping a brick off a bridge' example, though. Seems worse, to be honest.

This being MetaFilter, I await the comment of a Nepalese lawyer...
posted by jack_mo at 7:02 PM on May 27, 2006


He was judged to be a goner, but he wasn't gone yet, and the other story shows that sometimes those judgements are wrong.

Sometimes? How often do you think that happens? And to what lengths should people go to pursue a perceived miniscule chance of somebody surviving in such a situation? There must be a point at which you give somebody so little hope of surviving that you just have to give up on them; the kind of decision that surgeons would have to make on a regular basis.

Personally, I am appalled at the story on the face of it, but part of me says it is just too easy to take the high moral ground in front of the computer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:16 PM on May 27, 2006


I have no idea how often that happens, but obviously it's possible.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:23 PM on May 27, 2006


I can see how a ruined Everest summit attempt is a different class of sacrifice.

I can't. Difference of degree, maybe, but we're talking about measuring an optional, luxury activity vs. a human life in both cases.

Lookit, I wasn't on that mountain either. I can accept the notion that people don't think clearly when oxygen starved. I can accept that it may not have been safe to have helped. It's the rationalization going on here about when not to render assistance that's bothering me. Balancing it against the risk to your own life is one thing -- it's understandable, and may well have applied on the mountain. Balancing it against the risk to your attempt to climb a big rock or spend time in the wilderness or what have you is just sociopathic.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:31 PM on May 27, 2006


mcwetboy said: "fuck this narcissistic, antisocial, libertarian bullshit."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Those 40 climbers rationalized away David Sharp's life, absolved themselves of any responsibility, and continued to the summit.
posted by meringue at 7:36 PM on May 27, 2006


Ha! I should preview. Other people can express my disgust better than I can.
posted by meringue at 7:40 PM on May 27, 2006


Yes, rescues on Everest never happen. I can't believe this thread. Sir Edmund Hillary thinks that this was a bad thing and we're debating?! Of course, trying to rescue someone would be dangerous. It's a dangerous environment. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try. It defintiely doesn't mean that your summit is more important than someone's life. I don't think Inglis deserves as much blame though, as the people who saw this guy before him. Oh, and this:

I haven't heard of many people round here sell their luxury goods, much less take a pay cut so that another family can eat/get vaccinated/have shelter. I also haven't heard many comments 'when I was in a low oxygen environment/sinking ship/under fire/other absurdly high stress environment' I did x,y or z that was for the greater good and not to save my own skin or promote my goals

Is the biggest straw man argument I've seen outside of the Wicker Man. What, I don't live in poverty and devote all my time to saving people, so I can't say passing a dying man by on the side of the mountain and deciding getting my summit is more important is a bad thing to do? Tell me something, how many old ladies do I have to save before I am qualified to say this was the wrong thing to do?
posted by concreteforest at 7:56 PM on May 27, 2006


Hey boys, keep the "cunt" comments to yourselves please. All you are doing is making yourselves sound like a total dick.
posted by bim at 8:11 PM on May 27, 2006


Pun intended?
posted by ODiV at 8:33 PM on May 27, 2006


Not really a pun, more like irony.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:44 PM on May 27, 2006


too easy to take the high moral ground in front of the computer.
Of course. Those who post here never leave their PC's. We're never in the 'real world' where terrible things happen and we need to make tough choices.

Maybe I'll need to hire someone to remove me from the chains binding me irrevocably to this desk.
posted by IronLizard at 8:45 PM on May 27, 2006


Those 40 climbers rationalized away David Sharp's life, absolved themselves of any responsibility, and continued to the summit.

They chose what mattered to them, not what mattered to someone else.

They choose to do something completely un-necessary rather than attempt to preserve human life - a choice unacceptable in any reasonable society. A choice any 10 year old from any culture intuitively knows is wrong.

And the thinking is they get to do this because they're a 'community' defined by an activity. Not defined by nationality, language, culture, religion, or even economic system but by... an entirely optional activity or pursuit, an athletic endeavor... climbing... climbing up mountains.

One wonders, how high does a mountain have to be for this unusual moral code to apply, is Everest the only one, is there a certain altitude requirement?
posted by scheptech at 8:51 PM on May 27, 2006


If climbers on Mount Everest do not deserve to be saved because of the risk they took in attempting the climb, then people who walk on frozen lakes shouldn't be saved when they hit a soft spot and fall through. Bullriders shouldn't be saved when they get trampled on. Teenagers who drive their cars 100 miles an hour should be left on the side of the road when they crash into the median because hey, they knew that was dangerous and foolish when they did it. I work in an emergency room and if we turned away every single person who came in and had brought their injuries on themselves because of stupidity or risk, we'd lose half our business, and have a lot more suicides on our hands. We all take risks every single day, it doesn't mean we deserve to be left for dead because of them, no matter how small the chance of survival.
posted by Ugh at 8:55 PM on May 27, 2006


"If I can see cause they don't deserve my aid by virtue of their actions or beliefs, in relationship to the worthininess of my possibly sacrificed goal, then fuck 'em".

As mentioned above, their are billions of suffering people on this planet that I do fuck-all to help or even muster an milligram of care. We all pick our charity cases.

We all take risks every single day, it doesn't mean we deserve to be left for dead because of them, no matter how small the chance of survival.

This is missing the central point that this Sharp guy was, AFAICT, going WAY outside the safety and sanity envelop trying to "solo" the mountain.

If he were with a team that got weathered in and all got smushed in an avalanche, leaving him the sole survivor, then I would be arguing a different line on leaving him to his fate.

But (some) stupid actions (should) have consequences. As a left-libertarian I strongly suspect that pure Randian survival of the fittest would devolve into inefficient feudalism, but there is something to be said for not nerfing society to such an extent that bumblefucks like Sharp ruin it for everyone.

My 'golden rule' is the general do-unto-others deal. It is difficult for me imagining a situation where my stupidity and selfishness would put me in a parallel situation to Sharp's.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:20 PM on May 27, 2006


One wonders, how high does a mountain have to be for this unusual moral code to apply, is Everest the only one, is there a certain altitude requirement?

8000 m or 26000 ft appears to do the trick.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 PM on May 27, 2006


As I commented recently to a friend regarding the ethics of this sort of thing, in response to the question of whether taking action to kill someone (euthanasia, shooting, whathaveyou) has greater moral value than killing someone through inaction (leaving them on the street bleeding, etc.):

"As to the existance of a moral difference between action and inaction - in my experience, when it's someone else who hasn't acted, there's no difference at all, and inaction is just as reprehensible (and punishable!) as action. When it's oneself on trial, the difference suddenly becomes huge, and not acting, something no-one can be blamed for."
posted by po at 9:29 PM on May 27, 2006


er, greater moral weight, not value. *cough*
posted by po at 9:31 PM on May 27, 2006


But (some) stupid actions (should) have consequences.

Like being a double amputee and attempting to hike Mount Everest when most "able-bodied" people fail?

Inglis said "I walked past David but only because there were far more experienced and effective people than myself to help him." Funny that he finds himself to be so experienced that he can not only summit Mt Everest, but do it without legs. Yet when he comes across a dying man that needs help, it's almost as if he has the attitude of "someone else do it, i'm just a cripple."

Regardless, there were 39 other people that passed Sharp and Inglis shouldn't be the only one with reporters knocking at the door.
posted by Ugh at 9:53 PM on May 27, 2006


Like being a double amputee and attempting to hike Mount Everest when most "able-bodied" people fail?

No, like attempting to summit Everest "solo". Inglis planned his challenge with the appropriate safety margins. It would be somewhat interesting to learn exactly what Sharp thought he was doing, and whether "solo" attempts are all that common on Everest.

When it's oneself on trial, the difference suddenly becomes huge, and not acting, something no-one can be blamed for."

There was an interesting online philosophical moral dilemma quiz thing ... about eg. switching trains on tracks to avoid innocent deaths ... wish I could find it now.

With it I discovered that it's hard and perhaps unsupportable to /require/ positive action from anyone. Eg. not choosing to kill 3 strangers to save 5 strangers is apparently not immoral.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:23 PM on May 27, 2006


Sir Edmund Hilary is an old man and was doorstopped by media who are more interested in getting a good story than protecting dignity and offering respect to the dead.

"Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press Association" indeed.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:32 PM on May 27, 2006


This is missing the central point that this Sharp guy was, AFAICT, going WAY outside the safety and sanity envelop trying to "solo" the mountain.

If he were with a team that got weathered in and all got smushed in an avalanche, leaving him the sole survivor, then I would be arguing a different line on leaving him to his fate.


So "crazy insane risk-taking" is worthy of respect, but "batshitinsane risk-taking" is not? That's one hell of an arbitrary line to draw, my friend. Do tell: just how far above the speed limit can I drive before I'm not worth saving? Is there an algorithm of some sort to determine this? How do one's motivations factor in? Can I drive faster if I'm trying to get my pregnant wife to the hospital? Enquiring minds want to know.

Also, since you seem to be ignoring this fact despite its having been reiterated several times in this thread: Sharp's camp was robbed by unknown parties, and he did not have the supplies he had counted on having.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:56 PM on May 27, 2006


Well, I was attacked by a few people upthread, so I feel I should respond, and yet there really isn't much more to say. So let me clarify that this:
it's just not my job to go around helping people if I don't feel like it
...is not the whole story. Equally important: It's not my job to go around helping people even if I do feel like it.

I'm not saying I don't ever help strangers. It's happened. I've even bought food for homeless people a few times. But it was because I felt like doing it, not because I was a slave to some kind of supreme moral imperative.
posted by bingo at 11:07 PM on May 27, 2006


Since I have such awesome faith in human nature, I know that all those who criticize the legless climber for not putting his own life on the line to rescue someone else have never done any of the following:

*Not helped a homeless man sleeping in a puddle of his own frozen piss.

*Kept any of their income, beyond what they need for survival, to themselves instead of giving it to life-saving charities.

*Voted for lower taxes for themselves at the expense of life-saving medical research or support for deprived inner-city children.

It's easy to let others die. It's even easier to criticize others for choices one knows one will never have to make.
posted by spazzm at 11:15 PM on May 27, 2006


More strawman arguments. This is great. Guy gets left to die and people defend it in the name of selfishness. Once again, lets not forget that the amputee wouldn't have been alive to make the climb had others not given up their own ascent years before to save him.
posted by IronLizard at 11:32 PM on May 27, 2006


You don't have to go to Everest to find people in extremis, and others unwilling to sacrifice their goals, safety, or simply leisure to help them. Taking on Everest is a major commitment. I'm guessing that a conservative estimate would be an average six month training and acclimatization regimen, not to mention the financial costs. Are those of you so outraged at this willing to give up six months of your life and $50,000 in a possibly futile attempt to save someone from their own folly? If so, then you have my admiration, and plenty of opportunity to follow through. If not, well then you are a lot like most people I know.

The details are a little sketchy, but I say folly because attempting Everest without a support system is just that. One report I read quoted Sharp as saying he didn't need to worry because there would be climbers all around. If he really expected to be rescued by other parties, then he was trying to save money by jeopardizing the other climbers safety and summit chances. If he did not expect rescue, then he was rolling the dice in a manner entirely analogous to russian roulette. I have no problem with that, I occasionally engage in similar behaviour on a smaller scale.

As a mountaineer, and member of a volunteer mountain rescue unit, I sacrifice my time, money, and (in a conservative, calculated manner) safety to help people out who have gotten in over their heads. Saving someone's life is a loftier goal than any summit, but I can't say for sure what my actions would be in this situation. Could I marshal the resources to transport an incapacitated individual out of this extreme environment without unacceptable risks to my own safety? If not, then would I be obligated to abort my summit bid out of empathy?

Its not a question I can honestly answer without being there. But I would no more condemn any climbers who proceeded to the summit, than I would anyone else for living their lives and pursuing their goals while so many in the world suffer and die.
posted by Manjusri at 11:50 PM on May 27, 2006


A good letter to the editor in Saturday's Toronto Globe and Mail:



What happened on Everest is disgusting (Left To Die At 28,000 Feet -- May 25). I climbed Everest in 2002, was on Cho Oyu in 2001, and eventually climbed all the seven summits. I wholeheartedly agree with Edmund Hillary and his sharp rebuke of the climbers who passed by David Sharp and let him die.

I feel very sad and angry.

Angry because there were many climbers still on their way up the mountain, indicating that, in addition to their emergency reserve, they still had enough oxygen to reach the top, stay there for a while, and descend. On the way down, the flow of oxygen could have been reduced, which means that a group of three or four climbers could have spared some of their oxygen for Mr. Sharp and saved his life -- if only they had been willing to abandon their summit bid. Fortunately, in the past, climbers have preferred to save the life of a fellow climber rather than reach a summit.

I'm sad because people like Urszula Tokarska (the first Canadian woman to climb the seven summits) and Cam Roe (president of the Alpine Club of Canada) failed to harshly condemn such abhorrent, self-centred behaviour.

-- ARNOLD WITZIG

posted by Rumple at 12:10 AM on May 28, 2006



Since I have such awesome faith in human nature, I know that all those who criticize the legless climber for not putting his own life on the line


To allow a rescue attempt or to merely comfort a dying man the legless climber was not required to risk his life but to take a pass on his summit attempt, in other words, to go home. And leave it to the other several dozen people there. Is that a big deal? Yeah of course, but so is human life and the social contact which supposedly binds us all non-murderously together.

Hmm, so if you've never done something, or aren't or have never been a certain kind of person, you should never comment on that something or type of person? The military should not be under civilian control? Female doctors should never treat male patients? Children should never comment on adult behavior? Students should never question their teachers? Voters should never discuss the behavior of politicians? Minority groups should clam up about how the majority conduct themselves?

I would no more condemn any climbers who proceeded to the summit, than I would anyone else for living their lives and pursuing their goals


Except that much of that other life living and pursuing involves folks caring for their families (it's about other people) as opposed to indulging in extreme recreation (it's all about them).
posted by scheptech at 12:15 AM on May 28, 2006


Type AA's doing type AA things and acting like type AA's.
posted by HTuttle at 12:16 AM on May 28, 2006


As for Sharp's camp being robbed, from what I read he chose to make his summit attempts short of O2, regardless.

I applaud his bravery, but IMV, and I recognize I'm disagreeing with Sir Ed here, there is certainly a limit with which the mountaineering community owes this clown. Getting to 8000m is getting to orbit, almost, in expense and difficulty. Calling off one's own summit attempt to save this bozo would certainly be noble, but as referenced above it's oh-too-fucking easy requiring sacrifice from others.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:19 AM on May 28, 2006


One wonders, how high does a mountain have to be for this unusual moral code to apply, is Everest the only one, is there a certain altitude requirement?

8000 m or 26000 ft appears to do the trick.


Well, they could nuke the tops off all mountains that high and put an end to it all.

Though I guess all the locals would lose a nice living.
posted by HTuttle at 12:21 AM on May 28, 2006


Do tell: just how far above the speed limit can I drive before I'm not worth saving? Is there an algorithm of some sort to determine this? How do one's motivations factor in? Can I drive faster if I'm trying to get my pregnant wife to the hospital? Enquiring minds want to know.

Just don't expect me to save you from your own folly. This is why as a quasi-semi-left-libertarian I have no problem with speed limits and seatbelt/helmet laws. The social contract of my leftiness means I have to take care of your fool ass, so the least you can do is mitigate the risks, as much as practical, in the activities you engage in.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:25 AM on May 28, 2006


Here is an accomplishment to be proud of - 11,500-mile Moped Journey - unlike the other things discussed, it was not an exercise in vanity.
posted by Chuckles at 12:26 AM on May 28, 2006


8000 m or 26000 ft appears to do the trick.

Well, they could nuke the tops off all mountains that high and put an end to it all.

Yes apparently oxygen deprivation is the demarcation line between regular and irregular society. (although I'm not convinced this isn't really a money thing at bottom, note the various references to such upthread).

Anyhow, makes one despair for the scuba diving community - they must really be tough on each other, no oxygen down there at all...
posted by scheptech at 12:36 AM on May 28, 2006


You know, what the Everest rescue guys should do is get ahold of a small UAV to do unmanned supply drops. It sucks to hear about people dying for want of oxygen, heat, or pressure(altitude sickness), and it should be possible to borrow an unarmed predator from the military and rig it to drop off tanks/shelters/hyperbaric chambers. Or maybe just build one if they aren't willing to spare one.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:37 AM on May 28, 2006


Anyhow, makes one despair for the scuba diving community - they must really be tough on each other, no oxygen down there at all...

True.

Plus 'diving with weights' is cited as an aberation in the Bible even more than 'man sleeping with man' so us scuba divers are really deviant evil bastards.
posted by HTuttle at 12:48 AM on May 28, 2006


hmm, scuba SAR is a good parallel. Some idiot in cutoffs and a BCD bought at KMart runs into difficulty in a wreck dive at 120M, well, don't expect me to cancel my planned dives for that day to go look for him, to comfort him while he's dying or whatever other idiocy is upthread.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:57 AM on May 28, 2006


Mitrovarr. We should build an escalator to the top of K2, too.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:00 AM on May 28, 2006


And a Starbucks of course.
posted by scheptech at 1:02 AM on May 28, 2006


"Except that much of that other life living and pursuing involves folks caring for their families (it's about other people) as opposed to indulging in extreme recreation (it's all about them)."

Caring for one's family is a worthwhile endeavor to be sure, but sacrificing for a complete stranger is several orders of magnitude more rare. Mounting an ad-hoc alpine rescue of a disabled stranger at 28,000 feet is nearly unthinkably heroic, perhaps unprecedented? In any case obviously beyond the capabilities of clients such as Ingris. To divert an expeditions resources for such an attempt would be a decision fraught with peril to life, career and liability for the professionals present, who are responsible for the safety of their team and clients, and who may have families to care for too. Who had to make this decision and would have had to marshal such resources while suffering from oxygen deprivation that reduces one's thinking capacity to that of a slow child.

Even remaining in place at that elevation is risky business. Aborting their summit bid, and donating oxygen, which at least one climber did was a noble, but ultimately impotent gesture. I'm all for helping people in need, and public recognition of such service. But to blame people for not making a sacrifice of a magnitude I have not made myself would be hypocritical and help no one.
posted by Manjusri at 2:52 AM on May 28, 2006


From this morning's Independent on Sunday:

Sherpas save many more climbers than they are given credit for. One of them, called Dawa, was the only person who stopped to help David Sharp. "He tried to help him move, repeatedly for perhaps an hour," "But he could not get David to stand alone or even stand resting on his shoulders, and - crying - Dawa had to leave him too"
Dawa did not go on to the summit with those he was guiding. He had given his oxygen to a dying man. Even on Everest, it seems, some people still believe there are more important things than getting to the top.

posted by atrazine at 3:59 AM on May 28, 2006


Those who post here never leave their PC's. We're never in the 'real world' where terrible things happen and we need to make tough choices.

Maybe I'll need to hire someone to remove me from the chains binding me irrevocably to this desk.


That's a bit of a silly reaction. I have seen somebody die of oxygen deprivation at altitude, and it was obvious to any of us lay people that this guy was terminally rooted, especially being 8 hours or more from the nearest medical care. If I transpose that situation to 8000m+ & then imagine being near my last legs myself & weighing up whether or not to lug this slightly breathing corpse for one or two days to the nearest bunch of tents, I imagine I would probably decide against it as well, no matter how much of an armchair hero I would like to think myself to be.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:04 AM on May 28, 2006


Lookit, I wasn't on that mountain either. I can accept the notion that people don't think clearly when oxygen starved. I can accept that it may not have been safe to have helped. It's the rationalization going on here about when not to render assistance that's bothering me.

Yep. I can take the "he could not be saved, there wasn't enough oxygen, we would be pointlessly risking our lives to attempt to save his, or even stay there to comfort him" excuse - if it was actually ascertained that's what conditions were, and it's not; also, if we could ignore the guy had his supplies robbed, and we can't.

But the whole "he took his own risks, tough shit" excuse is flimsy at best.

Inglis seems to veer between the two, talking of how it was pointless to try and save him, and then saying stuff like he didn't have proper equipment, "he wasn't a member of our expedition, he was a member of another, far less professional one". ie. tough shit.

I don't know the whole story either, wasn't there, am not a climber, can't imagine what it's like at such heights with so little oxygen, and so on and so forth, so that makes me a little more hesitant about passing judgement. But other climbers did condemn this episode, so perhaps it's not just a matter of not knowing what it's like.


Also, this is interesting:

word was that the climbers who had found and cared for Lincoln were continuing to the summit. Instead, they were sitting out with Lincoln until help arrived.

"The earlier report of Dan Mazur summiting is not true, lost in translation in this multi-national environment. Dan abandoned his summit when he found Lincoln and waited there with him for 2-3 hours until the Sherpa rescue team arrived and then descended the peak with his client."

posted by funambulist at 4:09 AM on May 28, 2006


I have seen somebody die of oxygen deprivation at altitude, and it was obvious to any of us lay people that this guy was terminally rooted

Oh? And you left him there? Now I see where you're coming from.
posted by IronLizard at 4:23 AM on May 28, 2006


Wow. Talk about jumping to conclusions. Left him there? If you were on a 40 hour bus across the Himalaya at up to 5000 metres with no towns at all between the point of departure & the destination, where do you think you would go? Walk the rest of the way? But no, we didn't leave him there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:30 AM on May 28, 2006


Many very good articles from climber's perspective here.

"What are the responses you are getting from climbers?" asked a NZ radio reporter ExWeb today. "There are three categories," we said. "The veteran climbers are outraged, the commercial expedition leaders are silent, and the Everest climbers are confused."

Like people have said upthread, a big part of the problem is the commercialisation of the summitting of Everest. Many of the climbers who passed Sharp while he lay dying were high paying members of commercial expeditions. Now, most people on these expeditions are capable climbers, more capable than I am for sure, but on Everest they are often far out of their depth. These guys may be essentially walking wounded themselves, sleepwalking to the top.
They bear only limited responsibility because, although I wouldn't go as far as Oiarzabal and claim that they are 'not real climbers', they are often not in a position to make those decisions, the commercial outfits run and lead the expeditions.

If a commercial expedition leader decides to give up the summit attempt to save someone else's life, there will be a lot of disappointed members of that expedition. Bringing someone down is very difficult and will certainly take all the professional climbers and sherpas in a given group. That means that none of the 'customers' get to summit (they can't make it on their own). This will destroy their business, because word gets around. Imagine if the rescue attempt fails and the rescuee doesn't even survive, not unlikely. Would anyone want to pay a huge sum to climb with the guy who stopped 'for nothing'? Because that's how it will be portrayed, especially by his competitors. Enough people try and climb Everest and screw up that an outfit that consistently rescues those in need will make it to the top only rarely. Remember that for many of these guys, this is one of their only sources of income.

None of this is an excuse for their behavior, but lets be clear, this kind of situation is an inevitable consequence of the assembly line commercial climbing industry. In the past six years, as many people have made it to the top as in the whole 20th century. We can expect to see exactly the same stories this time next year.

I have never been into the dead zone, so I don't feel that I can easily pass moral judgement on these guys, but on the other hand a lot of people who have been there seem to be disgusted by it.
posted by atrazine at 4:32 AM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


atrazine: Conversely, if the standard operating practice for commercial expeditions was not to rescue anyone, then it'd be less safe for everyone, and I'll bet that would affect their business, too. People who pay $50K would want a reasonable assurance that they'd be brought down alive, not left to die at the top at the first sign of trouble. They'd want someone to at least try, I should think. They'd think, quite reasonably, "if it could happen to him, it could also happen to me."
posted by mcwetboy at 5:10 AM on May 28, 2006


Actually, wetboy, I do believe that if you are part of an expedition, getting you back alive IS part of the service you're paying for. That's the team leader's responsibilty.

It's not necessarily your team leader's responsibility to look after every other climber on the mountain -- solo or from other teams. There have been many instances of woefully unprepared climbers attempting Everest. I seem to recall a Korean team (or some predominately Asian tem) that almost got everyone killed. Maybe it was in "Into Thin Air."

You can't protect everyone from their own bad judgement, especially under extreme conditions.
posted by bim at 5:32 AM on May 28, 2006


All that does is shift the immoral behaviour from the individual to the group. Instead of individuals leaving each other for dead, groups are doing it to members of other groups. I fail to see how this is an improvement, or how it negates my point. If people from another expedition won't help me when I'm in trouble, it's still more dangerous for everyone.

You may as well have expeditions conducting raids on the competition's oxygen supplies, cutting ropes, and otherwise interfering with their ascents.

And bim, I've said this before: it's offensive to assume that if someone's in trouble, it's their own fault; it's even more offensive to argue that people exercising bad judgment -- and that may not even be the case in this instance -- deserve to die. This is the same attitude that looked at the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina and said, to the thousands killed or displaced, that it was their own fault for living there.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:05 AM on May 28, 2006


I believe this is Lincoln Hall's expedition company.

David Sharp's supplies were not stolen; according to this, Vitor Negrete's were stolen. Some of the articles about Negrete make it a little unclear by listing the theft and David Sharp's death as contributing factors in Negrete's death.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:40 AM on May 28, 2006


I find it most disturbing that any person could make the decision that it would be more satisfying to reach the top of a mountain than attempt to save another human's life, even if the probable outcome would be failure. Perhaps that is where the argument comes from; most of us couldn't sleep at night making that decision, but some could.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:38 AM on May 28, 2006


This whole process smacks of colonialism to me. These people, with all their physical prowess and money, should find something more useful to do with their time.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:16 AM on May 28, 2006


How Many People Have Climbed Mt. Everest?:There are about 80 current expeditions under way:
'Ecuador sin Límites' (Ecuador Without Limits), a four-member team will climb Everest from the North Col route. Ready to set and supply higher camps as well as fix ropes, they will hire no high altitude Sherpas. Team members Julio Mesias and Edison Oña are climbing without supplementary O2. Leader Patricio Crausaz and lady climber Paulina Aulestna will decide on their use of O2 depending on how they adapt to altitude.

If successful, Paulina will become the first female Ecuadorian Everest summiteer.
Is what was once the path least travelled now a highway to the sky?
posted by cenoxo at 8:18 AM on May 28, 2006


Who had to make this decision and would have had to marshal such resources while suffering from oxygen deprivation that reduces one's thinking capacity to that of a slow child.

So which is it - a good decision based on hard clear logic or a bad one caused by oxygen deprivation and inability to reason correctly?
posted by scheptech at 8:37 AM on May 28, 2006


Dawa did not go on to the summit with those he was guiding. He had given his oxygen to a dying man. Even on Everest, it seems, some people still believe there are more important things than getting to the top.

It's kinda important to note that for Dawa, Chomolangma is his home, his shrine, and Sharp was his guest. Plus Dawa will be coming back to that place again. Apples & oranges.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:48 AM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


I do believe that if you are part of an expedition, getting you back alive IS part of the service you're paying for. That's the team leader's responsibilty.

IMV it's important to note that Sharp was apparently piggy-backing on another expedition on-the-cheap, hence the "solo" aspect of his attempt. The brit papers have quotes to his parents saying to them that he will be OK since there are a lot of other climbers on the mountain (who would be able to help him should he get into trouble).

Typical socialist nanny-state 'helpless' thinking :) Seriously, while attempting to save this guy, should it have been at all possible, would have been noble, how many of us are willing to donate $50k+ -- the cost of an expedition -- to save a total stranger who put himself in danger due to his own stupidity?

Actually given Sharp was cutting corners to get onto the mountain, this goes beyond stupidity, into banditry, as diagrammed here.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:03 AM on May 28, 2006


So which is it - a good decision based on hard clear logic or a bad one caused by oxygen deprivation and inability to reason correctly?

Inglis says his team contact the expedition leader back at camp, and the expedition leader (Russ, I believe) told them to leave Sharp and go on.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:24 AM on May 28, 2006


I don't see why climbing Everest is even still considered such a huge accomplishment. When Sir Hillary and Tanzing Norgay did it, there were no established routes with ladders and markers in place, no high tech lightweight clothing with built in heating or state of the art gear swiss machined to insane tolerances (which I'm sure makes the old equipment look like caveman artifacts) and no crews of goddamn Sherpa's farting around up there, breathing more or less just fine (well okay...I'm sure they take an occasional hit of the O2). In 2004 a Sherpa named Pemba Dorjee made it up in 8 hours (it took Hillary/Norgay 7 weeks). So what are you left with? Some dollar empowered wannabe alpha male bigshots (and I'm sure most of them consider themselves self-made men) with 50,000 dollars taking a pre-packaged McEverest' oxygen stroll with guides up to the top of a tourist spot. Well, color me impressed. On the other side of it you have perhaps an individualist like Sharp who knows it don't mean much if you don't try and pull it off somewhat old school, who gets left for "dead". Granted, he might have a bit of a deathwish, but so what? That doesn't mean his life wasn't worth saving.

The original Hillary/Norgay climb embodied vision, courage and ingenuity and ennobled all of mankind. It was an iconic achievement, much like the moonshot where Armstrong said "one small step for man, one giant step for mankind". But this sad situation simply impoverishes us all. To not even try to save a human life is just grotesque. An allegory for our times..
posted by Skygazer at 9:25 AM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, I think it's still difficult.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:28 AM on May 28, 2006


And one should note that some of the other deaths on Everest this year have been people in tour groups.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:31 AM on May 28, 2006


Typical socialist nanny-state 'helpless' thinking :)

Haha, right... Could you project just a little more of your political axe-grinding into this story, Heywood? I don't think you've exhausted all possibilities for yet more irrelevant analogies there.

Seriously, while attempting to save this guy, should it have been at all possible, would have been noble, how many of us are willing to donate $50k+ -- the cost of an expedition -- to save a total stranger who put himself in danger due to his own stupidity?

You're the only one claiming that trying to save this guy would have costed $50k+. It looks like you pulled it out of nowhere.

Here's what those who stopped to help Lincoln Hall are saying:

According to Mazur, there was no question of leaving Hall and pressing on to the summit, even though it was his team's second attempt this season, the conditions were ideal and all team members were feeling fit.

"Not for a second, no, we didn't even discuss it," he said.

The 45-year-old Mazur, who reached the summit in his first attempt in 1991 and has tried three times since as a leader

for the Seattle-based Summitclimb, said he was naturally disappointed to have missed out under such "beautiful and perfect conditions".

"We just all felt like we knew that's what we had to do. Here was this person sitting there, he's half clothed, he's sort of talking, we're giving him our oxygen and food and water and he's started to come good. How could we leave a person like that?"

"I guess it would have been different if he, well, I don't even really want to consider that. The summit is still there and we can go back. Lincoln only has one life."


Of course, Sharp could have been in much worse conditions than Hall. Still, interesting contrast in the reasoning behind the decision.
posted by funambulist at 9:50 AM on May 28, 2006


The expedition would still cost the same whether it reached the summit or not. They could have all died and the same money would have been spent. It has no impact on following expeditions because despite all kinds of failures to reach the top and the large number of deaths, more and more expeditions are being made all the frigging time.

Unlike what atrazine says, it doesn't destroy any business. The business is very thriving despite all sorts of stuff going wrong.

And look at the guy who (contary to initial reports) did stop for Hall - he's not being portrayed as "the guy who stopped 'for nothing'", he's portrayed as a man who did the right thing.
posted by funambulist at 10:00 AM on May 28, 2006


Well, the mountain was suitably named anyway.
posted by HTuttle at 10:22 AM on May 28, 2006


funambulist: Unlike what atrazine says, it doesn't destroy any business. The business is very thriving despite all sorts of stuff going wrong.

atrazine's point, I think, is more about the psychology of business decision making. Businesses are wrong about this kind of thing all the time..
posted by Chuckles at 10:26 AM on May 28, 2006


Actually given Sharp was cutting corners to get onto the mountain, this goes beyond stupidity, into banditry...
posted by Heywood Mogroot


Well then--it's a good thing he's dead,right? He probably should have been given the death sentence anyhow and this just saved all the time and effort of a trial. Or someone could have just strangled him before he made it that far and been considered a hero.

(Although I don't know you, Mogroot, you don't strike me as the sort I'd like around me on any sort of outing.)
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:29 AM on May 28, 2006


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

- Serenity Prayer
posted by dgaicun at 10:37 AM on May 28, 2006


Skygazer said it perfectly and eloquently. Everest was conquered by remarkable men, to whom the current crop of wankers can't even be compared. One thing that might redeem these spoiled daytrippers is saving a life, and they won't even do that, because, y'know, it'll get in the way of them being the 50,000th person to take a piss on top of Everest, and that's more important than a fellow human being.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:56 AM on May 28, 2006


After having read Into Thin Air and all the various commentary since, I really can't argue that this deep commercialization of Everest expeditions isn't a bad thing in many different ways and that the achievement of summitting Everest isn't what it used to be.

That said, it seems to me that this is still a very, very difficult and dangerous climb and I don't think it's completely fair to portray it, even obviously hyperbolically, as a walk in the park. The death and accident rate is still very high even with all the equipment and other resources. As said by others above, there's an almost completley insurmountable problem with apoxia and hypothermia, and that the sherpas can do what they do is the result of lives spent at high altitude and enormous experience climbing Everest. It's still an impressive accomplishment. It's worth noting that in this long and active thread, no one has spoken up to say that they've climbed Everest—no one's mentioned anything even comparable. We often suprisingly have someone commenting that they have personal experience with remarkable things in threads such as these. But not this one: it's a very, very rare thing—the 1,400 people or so in the world form a very extraordinary club.

If I were physically capable of it, I'd love to mountain climb. I imagine that once you've spent a good portion of your life doing it then there's a context for climbing very difficult mountains for bragging rights. But I know that I don't want to climb mountains so that I can brag to anyone that I did. If I could climb Everest under the restriction that I could never tell anyone, I would. I think that at least some of these people are motivated by something other than the more petty things people have mentioned above.

Finally, I think that another problem I'm having with Heywood's and similar opinions on this is that they are all contending that what they are describing is the norm, rescuing other climbers the exception. But none of the relatively little I've read about Everest expeditions has included what it sounds like happened in Sharp's case. One sherpa tried to help him. What is more common are situations like Lincoln Hall's where a number of different climbers from different expeditions try to help, only moving on when they know that other and better prepared help will take their place. Or when their own lives are threatened by approaching nightfall or bad weather. None of these things happened with Sharp. They did with Hall. This wouldn't be controversial if it were SOP on the mountain.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2006


What I find disturbing is that everyone knows who the first man to set foot on the summit of Everest was but nobody can name the person who invented polar fleece.

Who's done more for the world?
posted by zaebiz at 2:15 PM on May 28, 2006


"So which is it - a good decision based on hard clear logic or a bad one caused by oxygen deprivation and inability to reason correctly?"

Neither, and both. Your question is an oversimplification of a complex situation and environment. The detailed pre-planning and logistics of a competent expedition requires much the requires the much skill and logic, and anticipates the inability of the climbers to reason well on summit day. Deviation from such a plan while in a less cogent state is a risk in itself, that compounds itself by forcing further decisions in an impaired state. This is something I strive to avoid, even in conditions far less taxing.

Choosing not to mount a rescue, once the victim was no longer ambulatory, was a safe and reasonable choice. An attempted rescue from that position would have been extremely risky to the rescuers and those they were responsible for, with little to no hope of success. Having attempted to aid Sharp, as Inglis' party did, and deciding against a rescue, continuing to the summit was also a reasonable choice. Much like choices we all make every day, like sitting here to compose this post rather than spending the time out helping people or striving to do something about the atrocities in Iraq.
posted by Manjusri at 3:06 PM on May 28, 2006


I agree Manjusri - you don't save someone who has fallen from a cliff by jumping after them.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:30 PM on May 28, 2006


It seems to me that many people on this thread have not actually thought through the consequences of the moral positions they hold. Peter Unger's book Living High and Letting Die is a good read, and very applicable here. Do you really want to condemn Everest climbers for letting another man die? As mentioned by others above, if you really believe this is wrong, why is it ok for you to ignore the suffering of countless millions elsewhere in the world whose lives quite plausibly could be saved by a minimal financial contribution on your part?
posted by jcruelty at 4:57 PM on May 28, 2006



Do you really want to condemn Everest climbers for letting another man die?


It's a good question, the Bible has a story about not being the first to throw stones, on the other hand are we to forever remain silent in the face of injustice because we're not perfect ourselves? Who will speak for justice if only perfect people may do so?

Those on the experienced 'pro' side are saying quite clearly this case does not present a moral conundrum. They agree with the decision whether it was muddled by oxygen deprivation or not and apparently would do it the same way again.

Those on the 'con' side are also saying there's no conundrum, there was no decision to be made, given the norms of human behavior a rescue attempt should be expected.

The interesting possibility this presents is that extreme physical conditions justify extreme moral positions, or at least positions other than those commonly accepted. One sees this justification in war stories where shooting your buddy rather than letting him die a longer painful death is ok, or perhaps under conditions of extreme deprivation where people are starving and practice cannibalism, or perhaps during natural disasters such as katrina where we accept people stealing to feed and protect their families.

The difference here is the climbing community puposefully puts themselves in these extreme conditions. One wonders, does the wider world accept their suspension of the usual moral code since the entire situation they find themselves in is voluntary?
posted by scheptech at 5:09 PM on May 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


I find this discussion endlessly fascinating. Basically. we're arguing about the moral culpability of letting someone die, but a lot of folks have this sense of outrage I usually reserve for murderers. I suspect they don't think there's much of a difference.

The fervor of the attempts to equate 'letting die' with 'killing' show something more interesting than the various arguments about preparation and O2 levels. Some people in this thread feel little more than socially-enforced loyalty to people outside of their circle, while others cannot differentiate the needs of strangers from their own. Yet everyone is convinced that their interlocutors are wrong, that their opponents are naively misreading their own consciences.

These unresolved attempts at a coherent meta-ethics suggest (to me, at least) that not all people carry the same moral intuitions. Perhaps we should acknowledge that, while some people are immoral, it's also the case that some people are differently moral.

Perhaps, though, this thread simply demonstrates that most mefites are chatfites at heart.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:15 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


jb: Why is Inglis singled out in these accounts?

Well, being disabled he needs to be held to a higher standard. People with no legs have eery powers, you understand.

I think the real reason he's being singled out is he's the only one of the team that's actually manned up to say anything about what happened, so his name is in the media.

Never mind that he was one of the few that actually stopped to see what was going on with Sharp.

Never mind that his team provided the guy with oxygen.

He was an experienced ranger, he worked in alpine rescue, and surely contributed to saving many many lives - you know, up until he lost his legs.

All the armchair quarterbacks can attack the morality of the situation all they like, but Inglis really isn't the guy you should be targetting.
posted by The Monkey at 6:32 PM on May 28, 2006


A Calgary woman says she's very proud of her husband for being part of a team that saved an Australian climber who was left for dead on Mount Everest.

Yet another take on the Lincoln Hall story. I'm proud of the guy, too, and glad he didn't bring shame to Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:00 PM on May 28, 2006


Excellent stuff. The influence of Aleister Crowley is still strong in contemporary rock climbing it seems.
Still a youth when he discovered rock climbing, he remained an avid rock and mountain scaler throughout his life. When he was nearly thirty, he headed a small expedition up Mount Kanchenjunga. After reaching a summit of 20,400 feet on the face of the glacier just below the main peak, the party convened to formally oust Crowley from his leadership role because of his sadistic cruelty to the porters and the rest of the crew. Of course Crowley refused to accept this demotion of rank, causing a disruption and ultimately, the expedition to be aborted. Everyone except Crowley started down for the lower camps. A slip in the loose snow set off an avalanche which buried all the crew except Crowley still mounted above them.

A Swiss climber managing to free himself began yelling for help while furiously working to dig out his colleagues. Crowley heard the pleas for help, but did not trouble himself. That night he wrote a letter, later published in a London newspaper, noting that he was not "over-anxious in the circumstances to render help. A mountain accident of this kind is one of the things for which I have no sympathy whatever." Several died in the incident, including all of the porters.
From here (but I think the text was taken unattributed from Colin Wilson)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:54 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


What I find disturbing is that everyone knows who the first man to set foot on the summit of Everest was but nobody can name the person who invented polar fleece.

best comment in the entire thread! thanks, zaebiz!
posted by brandz at 7:57 PM on May 28, 2006


Mark Inglis had his ass hauled off a mountain, true he lost his legs, but his life was saved, and he went on to climb Everest. Too bad he didn't make an effort to return a similar favour. Stephen Venables, the first Briton to ascend Everest without oxygen, who himself was rescued from a 21,400 ft summit called Panch Chuli V in India, says that he understands why people did not try to save Sharp and he claims that 'the ethics of climbing are quite schizophrenic'. As to his own accident, one minute he says he was on his feet, but then somehow he fell 300 ft down the mountain and broke both his legs, but was "saved from a further 1,000ft drop, and certain death by my fellow climbers who entwined themselves in my ropes". How nice of them to risk their lives to save his.
posted by TrinityB5 at 11:21 PM on May 28, 2006


Polarfleece® was introduced by Massachusetts textile manufacturer Malden Mills in 1979. The product was trademarked but never patented.

Ironically enough, the company owner's admirable altruism towards his employees after a severe fire in 1995 (coupled with the lack of a patented manufacturing process) ultimately contributed to the company's bankruptcy [see The Need for a Paradigm Shift — The Malden Mills Lesson, page 11, PDF.]
posted by cenoxo at 12:03 AM on May 29, 2006


Much like choices we all make every day, like sitting here to compose this post rather than spending the time out helping people or striving to do something about the atrocities in Iraq.

If we're going to make wildly incorrect analogies, then it would be more like sitting here to compose this post rather than striving to do something about a man who had a heart attack two desks away from you, or to try and rescue survivors of a bombing right outside your office. It's not the distance, it's the direct occasion to do something about someone right there under your very eyes.

But even those are incorrect analogy because an office is not like Everest, and because I presume no one is sitting right beside the scene of a bombing with people hurt and maimed all over the place and doing nothing about it.

There's no need for analogies in the first place. Much less need for 'no one is a paradigm of impossible save-the-whole-world samaritan virtue, so everyone is just as guilty'.

Like I said, I don't feel inclined to push the instant moral condemnation button precisely because of those extraordinary conditions all these climbers were in, as well as the fact we don't know exactly in how bad a state the man left for dead was, so yes that has to be taken into account. On the other hand, other climbers in the very same situation acted differently, with a man who was also thought to be almost dead; and other climbers still expressed their condemnation on what happened to Sharp. So all that has to be taken into account too.
posted by funambulist at 2:43 AM on May 29, 2006


I find it very easy to take into account the important things. Or, rather, the important thing: whether they acted selflessly or selfishly.

The selfish climbers can go fall over a cliff for all I care. They are not worth keeping.

The selfless climbers who rescued the guy? They are heros.

The world needs more heros.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:15 AM on May 29, 2006


That said, it seems to me that this is still a very, very difficult and dangerous climb and I don't think it's completely fair to portray it, even obviously hyperbolically, as a walk in the park

I think we can agree though that it has become a highly systemized routine when pre-paid packages are offered commercially and the mortality rate has plummeted significantly in the last few years. It's really not the accomplishment it was even 10 or 15 years ago. Hillary and Norgay had to invent a way through every bit of the first climb. Can you imagine what kind of skill and intelligence that takes...over 7 weeks with primitive equipment under the most inhospitable terrain on earth.

but a lot of folks have this sense of outrage I usually reserve for murderers.

Whoa. That's a whole different ballgame. This is about some thing much more universal and passively malignant and that is how much responsibility do we have for the immediate and direct world which surrounds us. An area that we should seek to be able to manifest some good. Or as Hannah Arendt said: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing". (to employ another over used quote, but hey if it fits...).

All the armchair quarterbacks can attack the morality of the situation all they like, but Inglis really isn't the guy you should be targeting.

I agree with this. Expressing outrage towards Inglis basically amounts to shooting the messenger. 40 men walked by Sharp and I imagine that some sort of resolution had been dispersed by those in charge that help had been summoned and tthey'd done all they could. And in such a harsh and unforgiving environment I'm sure it's drilled into the heads of all (as it should be) that if orders aren't followed to the letter, they will be putting their own life in danger and those of the people around them. Sort of like an army except the enemy here isn't an opposing army, but the elements. But, did they in fact do all they could to save Sharp. No, they didn't. They had plenty of supplies (someone was even carrying spare legs for Ingles which tells me they'd planned pretty well) and plenty of men who could see to Sharp and get him to a safer more hospitable environment. And that's a FACT. If they could make it to the summit, they could get him to a safer place or at least see to it that he didn't die alone. Inglis's fault in this is that as someone who'd almost lost his life on a climb (and a role model for handicapped people. A role he sought), he was the de facto moral standard bearer of the expedition. It's not like he didn't have plenty of experience with the dangers of climbing. In essence he was the Sir Hillary of that group and I think that one of the things you want to do when you climb to the top of the world (in reality and metaphorically) in the name of not only yourself but others (i.e. the handicapped) it's crucially important that you do it as a man, in possession of all ones dignity and the values you (hopefully) live by in everyday life. Because once you let that go you're nothing but a predictable blip in an algorithm for money. In essence a consumer. And 40 of those men proved themselves to be simply consumers.

Or as FFF just pointed out, this world is in desperate need of heroes, heroes are not consumers.

Crowley heard the pleas for help, but did not trouble himself.....

Crowley was also a relentless and gifted self promoter (as evidenced by the fact that one of the first things he did was write a letter about the incident which was somehow subsequently published in a London newspaper) who never tired of feeding the fire of his own grossly over wrought legend. You know if you lay claim to being the anti-christ and all that, you have to make sure it gets out how evil you are. Have a good publicist etc...

and plus the Beelzebub crowd is impressed by totally different behavior then the one Inglis is speaking for...
posted by Skygazer at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2006


The selfless climbers who rescued the guy? They are heros.

The world needs more heros.


Very true. You can argue all week long about Ellison's and Inglis' actions. Perhaps there was nothing they could do. Perhaps they could have done more. What is quite clear is that Giovanni Soldini and Lincoln Hall's rescuers were heros.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:52 AM on May 29, 2006


scheptech: "The interesting possibility this presents is that extreme physical conditions justify extreme moral positions, or at least positions other than those commonly accepted."

On the contrary, I think you fail to understand many of the posts objecting to the condemnation of these folks. We are saying that the morality is quite conventional, and similar to decisions made by everyone, every day, here at sea level. What the extreme physical conditions provide is a level of insularity from the armchair, that allows one to comfortably castigate others, while secure in the knowledge that I will never face that precise painful choice myself.

funambulist: "It's not the distance, it's the direct occasion to do something about someone right there under your very eyes."

I agree that it is not one's physical proximity to an event that imposes an obligation to act, but see no reason to add a constraint of personally witnessing an event to be morally obligated to intervene. I subscribe to a less comfortable, but perhaps more practical yardstick. It is one's ability to effect change that imposes responsibility. Whether the tragedy is unfolding before my eyes, or on the other side the globe and only relayed to me on TV, the internet, or the pager that goes off in the middle of the night to tell me someone needs help.

I've participated in teams transporting immobile victims in alpine terrain. It is physically demanding, tricky, and dangerous in environments that do not even come close to the challenges of Everest. Sharp's location and condition was such that a rescue was particularly hopeless, even for Everest. One experienced Everest rescuer estimated it as a 40-man operation at great risk, with a doubtful outcome. The notion that Inglis could have even participated in such a rescue is ludicrous. I respect the man's achievement. I have even greater respect for people that pull off daring and successful rescues, precisely because risking your life to save a stranger is an extraordinary moral decision.

mathowie: "but the guy that died was doing a solo ascent, which is a pretty tough thing to do and worthy of my respect.."

It's a cliche, but true: It's not the ascent that is difficult, that's only half-way. It's the round-trip, getting up and getting back down safely that is the challenge.
posted by Manjusri at 1:59 PM on May 29, 2006


Or as Hannah Arendt said: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing". (to employ another over used quote, but hey if it fits...).

So now Ingliss is a Nazi? Are you serious? This wasn't the triumph of evil here; that's exactly what's so strange about the condemnations. It was the triumph of nature and necessity, which always wins eventually. Comparing Sharp's death to administrative genocide is just... sigh. I call Godwin's.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:18 PM on May 29, 2006


...which always win eventually. Grammar, on the other hand, is always on the side with the stupidest battalions.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:21 PM on May 29, 2006


So now Ingliss is a Nazi? Are you serious? This wasn't the triumph of evil here; that's exactly what's so strange about the condemnations. It was the triumph of nature and necessity, which always wins eventually.

I don't think he was calling anyone a Nazi, just pointing out that inaction can be a horrible thing.

And this wasn't a triumph of necessity, there was no necessity for those 40 men to get to the summit. They wanted to get there, and they wanted it enough to leave a man to die for the sake of what? Pride? Money? The least they could have done was remain with him, there would be no danger in that.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:12 PM on May 29, 2006


I call Godwin's.

Wow. That's such a narrow reading of the Arendt quote. Inaction and passivity can in fact be a from of evil, that's all I'm saying. Put your Godwin detector away already....sheesh.
posted by Skygazer at 4:24 PM on May 29, 2006


The one time I was in a situation like this (not mountain climbing, but a life and death situation) I did help. I didn't do as much as others that arrived on the scene later (I had no first aid training), but I did what I could, while others drove by in their cars watching, or pulled over to watch while not lifting a fingers. So thing twice before you call the critics of these actions armchair quarterbacks.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:34 PM on May 29, 2006


Well, you have to admit, between references to nazi-like evil and mentions of that sociopathic nutter Aleister Crowley, perhaps it's going just a little overboard?

I subscribe to a less comfortable, but perhaps more practical yardstick. It is one's ability to effect change that imposes responsibility.

Mansjuri, I was not setting any yardstick there, it's just a realistic observation.

If you see a man having heart attack two feet from you and no one else is around or hasn't gotten to him yet, you act before you can even think about it, because you have the direct basic capability and opportunity to do so.

If you see on tv the news of an earthquake happening on the other side of the world, you feel sad and horrified, you feel powerless, maybe you send a donation to the relief fund to assuage that feeling, and then you go about your business. This is what most people do. There is nothing wrong with it. It's not selfish. It is practical. You literally cannot do anything about it in the immediate, not in the same way you can help a man dying at your feet.

If you are so moved by events far removed from you to quit your family, your job, jump on a plane, and hop there to lend your hands to the relief effort (provided you could do that without being qualified and prepared, both practically and emotionally, or belonging to any organisation in the first place, which is hard, because even the best organised relief agencies run into problems delivering aid, and unprepared volunteers can be a hindrance), then good for you, but that's not what normally happens.

There's no need to imply that unless someone is doing all that can be done to help anyone in any place in the world in the most extraordinary circumstances, then they can't talk about sacrifice and selflessness.

Was the possibility to rescue Sharp more like a situation of going out of one's way to do something extraordinary against all odds, or more like a situation of immediate direct opportunity to help someone? Maybe a bit of both, given the conditions. I honestly don't know. I don't think Inglis and the other 40 are evil, and I appreciate the difficulty of the situation they were in, and the impossibility of knowing exactly how bad Sharp's conditions already were.

But there are still climbers who believe the ethics of climbing requires that kind of 'extraordinary moral decision', and there are those who have put their money where their mouth is, and helped against all odds. It hasn't been so extraordinary and heroic for them, it's been normal, exactly because those extraordinary circumstances typically require much more cooperation than in ordinary life in a comfortable place.

If a man was having a heart attack in the middle of a crowded street, you would not be at fault walking on minding your business instead of running there to help, when there's already twenty people doing it and mobile phones to call ambulances from the hospital three blocks away. On a mountain top no one has that luxury, so it's not such an extraordinary ideal to believe that every effort should have been done.
posted by funambulist at 5:47 PM on May 29, 2006


Just look at what the climber who stopped to rescue Lincoln Hall said (quoted that a few comments above). He sure didn't sound like he thought of himself as an extraordinary hero struggling with a very hard moral decision. He said there was no question.

It would be sad if that kind of act was considered only as an extraordinary act of heroism, really.
posted by funambulist at 6:02 PM on May 29, 2006


That's such a narrow reading of the Arendt quote.

Umm. The quote is from Edmund Burke, but Arendt uses it in Eichmann in Jerusalem. So, no, it's not narrow, it's an -accurate- reading. (It'd be a narrow reading of Burke, but not of Arendt) She's there marshalling a theory of complicity for the evil done by other humans. In On Revolution, where she compares the American and French revolutions, she argues that Saint Just's pity, his desire to save people from all necessity and suffering, is the true source of terrorism. All the rhetoric of safety and suffering tends to interfere with good judgment. (There should be a new Godwin's for the Bush/Blair administrations, because it's such a nice parallel that you don't even have to mention WWII anymore.)

Arendt said that good judgment is the art of making distinctions. The equation of killing and letting die depends on a crucial non-distinction: it's a mistake of judgment. Humans are mortal, and it is essential to their nature to die. We have a responsibility not to kill others... but death is inevitable. Letting people die is simply giving in to the inevitable, which is sometimes heroic, as I would argue it was for those who fought to let Schiavo die. Sometimes it's a breach of an agreement, a broken promise, as when a police officer fails to do his job and protect the innocent. Sometimes, it's simply good sense.

You've read many in this thread whose professional opinion is that Sharp's death was inevitable, that when Inglis passed him he was unsaveable. Mt. Everest isn't the Nazis, it's a mountain and its cold and there's not a lot of air up there. When you discount these experts, it seems you do so because your moral intuition tells you that no expert-knowledge should justify murder. And you're right. Sadly, we're simply talking about a case of letting someone die the death that was waiting for him, so the moral intuition is misapplied. There are many reasons to let someone die, and those who passed Sharp gave the best one: they couldn't do anything to save him. You can't save everyone.

The least they could have done was remain with him, there would be no danger in that.

Well, sure. But sometimes we miss funerals when we have pressing plans. If the conversation is just about waiting out his last hours with him, we're in the realm of concern or indifference, not heroism or cowardice.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:05 PM on May 29, 2006


[insert clever name here] : So thin[k] twice before you call the critics of these actions armchair quarterbacks.

Sorry, if you made a point it wasn't clear. What are you saying?
posted by The Monkey at 9:24 PM on May 29, 2006


I've never equated letting Sharp die with murder and I am not happy that those arguing against the position I've taken find that a convenient counter-argument. In other words, it's a strawman. I won't deny someone their inclination to try to intuit what other people are thinking...but in this case, at least with regard to me, that's not what I'm thinking.

And, good lord, some of us aren't ignorant of moral philosophy. The train switch example comes from the typical critique of utilitarinism and is aimed at questioning an assumption that outcomes are all that need be considered. Does that apply here? Certainly it does...but as I try to recall how this thread has developed, I see that neither side is focusing only on outcome, or circumstance. Both sides have nuanced arguments, except for some individuals who don't.

The most reasonable argument on my side of the fence seems to me to be one that assumes that trying to save Sharp would not have been, in relative terms, unduly dangerous to the rescuers; and that there was something that could have been done; and that the situation of encountering him on the way up the mountain (meaning they have oxygen for the rest of the ascent and then back down) is distinguished from encountering him on the way down.

I also feel that the argument that the default mountaineering assumption is a reasonable not to try to help is false. People helped Hall. People help dying mountaineers on Everast all the time. There's nothing I've seen that indicates that this was the norm, not the exception. In that context, this argument that it's absurd to impose our keyboard-typing morality on these climbers is a strawman. We already know that, in general, mountainteering moral intuition is not that much different than ours.

Furthermore, I don't think that I very specifically singled out Inglis, not knowing how his opportunity to help compares with those who went before and came later. I'm most appalled at the lack of help from almost everyone, given that in my opinion (from my reading about the events) help was possible.

Finally, my intuition tells me that this was less about either a callous disregard for Sharp's life, or a very reasoned mountaineering decision, than it is the sort of inaction that comes when responsibility is sufficiently diffused, no formal decision-making process is in place, and there is a general assumption that there's other people who are taking responsibility. I'd bet that everyone who didn't stop to help Sharp thought there was a rescue team on its way. Or at least other climbers associated with Sharp were on the way, or something of that nature. Once Sharp went completely unconscious, I suspect that those who saw him then assumed he was dead or there was nothing they could do (and there probably wasn't, at that point).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:30 PM on May 29, 2006


Hmm. I think people missed Heywood Mogroot's comment:

---
hmm, scuba SAR is a good parallel. Some idiot in cutoffs and a BCD bought at KMart runs into difficulty in a wreck dive at 120M, well, don't expect me to cancel my planned dives for that day to go look for him, to comfort him while he's dying or whatever other idiocy is upthread.
---

Aww. Your precious dives for the day. You know why we lionize heroes? It's to remind us that not everyone is quite the soulless failure of a human being.

(The best part is how you didn't even notice your attitude might be problematic or unusual.)
posted by effugas at 11:47 PM on May 29, 2006


You know why we lionize heroes? It's to remind us that not everyone is quite the soulless failure of a human being.

Is that really the reason?
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:13 AM on May 30, 2006


Yeah, I sort of think so. I think we love heroes because heroism inspires within us our best qualities. There's selfishness in that—we want to think the best of ourselves, and heroism is a roundabout way to do so—but, even so, it's a noble thing in that we all benefit from it. Heroes are people being the kind of people we aspire to be.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:32 AM on May 30, 2006



hmm, scuba SAR is a good parallel. Some idiot in cutoffs and a BCD bought at KMart runs into difficulty in a wreck dive at 120M, well, don't expect me to cancel my planned dives for that day to go look for him, to comfort him while he's dying or whatever other idiocy is upthread.


Apart from the questionable morality of this atttitude, the poster must mean 120 feet (still classed as a deep dive) since at 120 metres, KMART and cutoffs or not, you're in very serious trouble unless you are on mixed gases, etc. Either a typo, or the OP is blowing smoke, which actually seems kind of likely.
posted by Rumple at 1:00 AM on May 30, 2006


Well, sure. But sometimes we miss funerals when we have pressing plans.

There's a pretty big difference between missing a funeral and walking right on by a man who is dying alone on the ground right next to you.

If the conversation is just about waiting out his last hours with him, we're in the realm of concern or indifference, not heroism or cowardice.

I think comforting him was the least they could have done as that involved no physical danger to them. I believe they should have attempted to help him.

I don't think there is any element of cowardice here, just selfishness, pride and greed.

The desire to be able to say they got right to the top and fuck anything or anyone that got in their way.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 2:53 AM on May 30, 2006


A new article about the Lincoln Hall rescue:

Coming back down the ridge, to be honest feelings were of nothing but disapppointment at not making the summit; Everest is a peculiar mountain in that the summit is so highly prized and sought after, that nothing else seems important. This was made abundantly clear to us as two Italians walked by just as we found Lincoln. They increased their pace, moved on by, and said "No speak English." Although one of our compatriots at high camp had had an hour-long chat with them in English the day before.

and it seems that the people who found him had their teammates in base camp contact Lincoln Hall's team at camp and Lincoln Hall's team sent up the sherpas to bring him down. David Sharp had no team.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:41 AM on May 30, 2006


I've never equated letting Sharp die with murder... that's not what I'm thinking.

Well, such an equation is rhetorically ineffective, so most writers have tried to condemn Inglis and his team without explicitly stating that their judgment is rooted in this indiscriminate confusion of action/inaction. I note that your judgment requires a number of analogies with other situations: Hall could be saved, therefore Sharp could be saved. As I've argued, you can't save everyone, and we must trust those who were there to make the judgment that this or that climber was saveable or no. Ed Hilary is just as much a Monday-morning quarter-back in this as the rest of us. If you would argue, as some have upthread, that -all- measures should have been taken to keep Sharp from dying regardless of the likelihood for success, then you must believe that there is an absolute duty to prevent death. I think this is untenable.

What would motivate this condemnation of -any- inaction? I'm far from a libertarian, (a political philosophy for teenage boys) but I suspect that most types of moral outrage are either consequentialist (someone died, someone living must be at fault) or contractarian (you implicitly agreed to protect me and did not; your failure marks a broken promise.) Anyone who argues for natural and absolute moral duties to act in a specific manner in some situation runs into the same problem that Isaiah Berlin noted with positive liberties. You can't have substantive positive liberties, or substantive moral duties, unless you're willing to let a single liberty/duty take over your entire moral/political system. If the state guarantees equality, it can't also guarantee life or liberty. If morality requires action to save every possible life, it can't also require lesser forms of care or prioritize happiness.

I'd bet that everyone who didn't stop to help Sharp thought there was a rescue team on its way.


I don't think so. From the first link:

Mr Inglis said: “I radioed and (the expedition manager) Russ said, ‘You can’t do anything. He’s been there a number of hours without oxygen. He’s effectively dead’.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:45 AM on May 30, 2006


The quote is from Edmund Burke, but Arendt uses it in Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Thanks for the correction. My mistake. I'd only heard it used by Arendt, or at least it's her use of that idea, that stuck with me (although I would hope most people would see it in it's broader ethical context as Burke must've intended.

Anyone who argues for natural and absolute moral duties to act in a specific manner in some situation runs into the same problem that Isaiah Berlin noted with positive liberties. You can't have substantive positive liberties, or substantive moral duties, unless you're willing to let a single liberty/duty take over your entire moral/political system.


This seems to suggest that if further, more complete knowledge comes to light that proves the party was in fact in a position to help him and that Sharp's condition was critical but possibly not terminal , there's a chance you might agree there was, in fact a possibly that more could've (and should have) been done for him? (i.e., either help him not die alone or assemble a rescue team.) Also, not to get into the polemics of moral relativism, yes there are no absolute moral imperatives without losing sight of the nuance involved in ethics, but I don't know if that applies in this situation. Again we'll have to see if more comes to light.

If the state guarantees equality, it can't also guarantee life or liberty.

The state can't and shouldn't guarantee a "natural" condition. (The founding fathers made that clear.) It can only stay out of the way.
posted by Skygazer at 6:54 PM on May 30, 2006


In an ideal world anyway.
posted by Skygazer at 6:55 PM on May 30, 2006


Skygazer wondered aboyt my position if further, more complete knowledge comes to light

I am always willing to amend my judgments. I'm a fallibilist: humans makes mistakes, and I am all too human. I suspect that in this case, however, we will not see any countervening testimony.

Here's a different set of questions: did you know that, in the US, there is no "Duty to Rescue"? It's not a tort to pass someone by after an accident. Tort law usually reflects our moral values, except in those instances when the Law and Economics folks have had their way. In this instance, it's not a matter of efficiency, but rather that US common law doesn't recognize rescue as a duty. Heroism, yes, but not a duty, not something for which someone can be held liable in civil law. Why do you think that is?

I'm also curious: do those who believe in the all-measures rescue really believe that climbing Mt. Everest is an ethical expenditure of resources? Don't we have a duty to spend our money and our energies more wisely and more justly? This is a sport for the idle rich... shouldn't these climbers be helping out all the people dying in the streets of Katmandu as they pass on the way to the summit?

Skygazer also said: The state... can only stay out of the way.

A democratic state can, and should, do much more than that. "In an ideal world," as you say, the state would be the instrument of the people's collective will, after deliberation had revealed that will. But that's a conversation for another thread.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2006


ap said: No oxygen = anesthetized conscience.

That is the answer here. Pretty much everyone agrees that when you are making a summit bid on Everest, you are not in your right mind. I'm sure plenty of the climbers who passed Sharp are going to have this riding on their conscience for a long time. They're going to kick themselves and say "Why didn't I help him?"

Only those who have been on Everest can know what it is like to be there. The rest of us have no place to judge.
posted by etoile at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2006


I have been very upset by some of the ignorant comments on this thread, coming from both sides.

Mark Inglis climbed Mount Everest with no fucking feet and he is a fucking hero.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:25 AM on June 5, 2006


Ron Jeremy is a fucking hero, mate. Inglis? He's a fucking mountaineer.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 PM on June 5, 2006


Yeah, well... I had had a couple of glasses of wine, and a really shitty weekend and the indignation certaintly felt like Inglis was a hero when I wrote that last night but with the cold and hungover light of dawn today... meh.

There are bigger things in the world than Mount Everest and one of them starts this weekend.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:31 PM on June 5, 2006


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