Friday, May 26, 2006

What is a dream worth?

Think about this real hard.

You have a once-in-a-lifetime dream to achieve something you have always dreamed of, trained for, and sacrificed a great deal to get the opportunity to achieve. And it's not cheap-- it cost you a lot of money-- maybe even as much as $75,000.

Is achieving it worth a man's life?

Apparently it is, for forty mountain climbers who walked past a dying man on Mount Everest in order to reach the summit.

The first man to the summit of Mt Everest cannot understand how New Zealand climber Mark Inglis and others on the mountain left British mountaineer David Sharp to die.

"All I can say is that in our expedition there was never any likelihood whatsoever if one member of the party was incapacitated that we would just leave him to die," Sir Edmund Hillary
[the first man to climb the mountain, in 1953] said yesterday.

The renowned adventurer was reacting to the decision by double-amputee Inglis, who was one of many who passed the dying Briton near the summit without trying to rescue him....

"[Inglis] radioed and [expedition manager] Russ said, 'Mate, you can't do anything. He's been there x number of hours without oxygen. He's effectively dead'. So we carried on.

"Of those 40 people who went past, no one helped him except for people from our expedition."

But Sir Edmund was in no doubt.

"On my expedition there was no way that you would have left a man under a rock to die.

"It simply would not have happened. It would have been a disaster from our point of view."

I will say that Inglis is only one of forty, and they all failed.

The argument is that he couldn't have been saved, and at high altitude a rescue would have been difficult. But Sir Edmund has an answer for that, too:

"You can try, can't you? This is the whole thing," Sir Edmund said.

"You are in a dangerous situation, there's no question about that.

"But at least you can try to rescue the life of a man who is obviously in a distressful condition."...

"I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mt Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top.

"They don't give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn't impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die," Sir Edmund said.

And as to the assertion that Mr. Sharp's life could not have been saved? Well, a researcher isn't so sure:

A scientist who has studied oxygen use on Mt Everest believes British climber David Sharp could have been saved.

University of Otago scientist and mountaineer Dr Phil Ainslie said it might have been possible to revive the climber with bottled oxygen and even get him down to safety.

What might have determined Sharp's fate was the intense commercial pressure on Everest climbers, who generally had one very expensive shot at the peak, Dr Ainslie said.

At least 40 climbers passed Sharp, who was identified as being in difficulty and later died on the mountain.

Dr Ainslie, a lecturer in Otago's physiology department, said had Sharp been given oxygen by another climber he could have recovered something like 80 per cent of his capacity.

The line of 40-plus climbers that day probably had one shot at the summit: "There would have been a line like at the supermarket."

Maybe David Sharp could have been saved, maybe he could not. And I know how important a dream is. But no dream is worth a man's life.

And I will say one thing in defense of Mark Inglis. At least he radioed. Most of the other climbers apparently didn't even do that.

It's just too bad that Sir Edmund Hillary wasn't going back for a nostalgia climb, or to try and become the oldest, or something like that. Because then maybe David Sharp would have lived. Or maybe he still would have died. But he wouldn't have been passed by.


Beth said...


This story just shows thatin today's society, for some, it is more important to dominate or achieve than it is to help.

Anonymous said...

This is what greed and fame does to people... their since of compassion and morality is lost and blind sided by $$$$. No man or woman's life is worth that. I call them cowards.