General Chat Thread, The ethics of mountaineering in General; I was just reading this piece in the Guardian questioning whether it's right for climbers to traipse past the dying ...
29th May 2012, 11:19 AM #1
The ethics of mountaineering
I was just reading this piece in the Guardian questioning whether it's right for climbers to traipse past the dying on their way to the Everest summit.
Mount Everest: the ethical dilemma facing climbers | World news | The Guardian
Tricky one. I certainly don't blame people for doing it, though I could imagine it could play on your conscience afterwards...
But can it ever be right, in the words of mountain leaders Chris and Simon Holloway, for climbers to "carry on to the summit, while there are living people dying behind them"?
29th May 2012, 11:27 AM #2
The article I read stated that experienced climbers would rarely leave the dying but it was suggested that those who were less experienced, having got that far, would not turn around and not get to the top to save someone. I have also read that these people are not really save-able but I cannot see how they would know that.
The recent deaths were caused, it said, by the climbers having to wait at the last stop for too long, depleting their energy and oxygen supplies, and that they were not experienced enough to realise that they could not make it up , and that they had to remember that the top was only half way - you have to get down again.
Personally I cannot imagine ever being able to walk past someone in that state.
The litter at the top of the mountain apparently is pretty bad too.
29th May 2012, 11:47 AM #3
has human life come to count for less than the fulfillment of a personal ambition?
When we live in an age where the net value of a life is lower than, say, an iPhone, Laptop, Car or other such item, I doubt people that pay $10,000 are going to 'waste it' by not reaching the summit if they think they can. Personally, I'd stop. I know I would. There's no way in hell I could leave somebody dieing there like that. I'd walk past the dead - most likely with a heart full of sorrow and regret - but to leave a person I might have a chance of helping to their demise? no.
29th May 2012, 11:50 AM #4
It's disgusting really, passing the dying. And caused, as noted in the comments in that article, by people paying to get to the summit and consequently getting a 'damn the rest of you' attitude. Never happened before guided ascents became comonplace. Probably made easier by being one of the dozens of other people also passing the stricken.
29th May 2012, 12:01 PM #5
Perhaps they had considered the possibility of this happening, and of them being the ones left behind... For every ten successful summits, there is one death. That is the fact you have to accept before you get there, it is still bloody dangerous. It could be even more so struggling down with a 3/4 dead body.
29th May 2012, 12:11 PM #6
Although to play devils advocate, these people are not going into the climb blindly. They are aware of the risks and should have a contingency plan. I don't think people should climb alone either. It is a sad state of affairs today when people put their own ambition over the lives of others, but equally, when all your supplies are planned and packed down to the last granule and everything you need you have to carry, I can't see how people would have spare oxygen or equipment for others on the mountain. This then puts them at risk. Climbing Everest is not like climbing mount Snowdon - it is a tough endurance trek with harsh conditions. If you have not planned properly and die as a result why should others put their own lives at risk to save you? Why should others waste all the time, effort and money they put into properly planning their expedition? Why should other climbers put themselves at risk to carry you down when it is unlikely you will live through the descent (although obviously no-one has the right to decide this as it is tantamount to 'mercy killing').
IMO all Climbers should climb as a group and if one fails the group should be responsible for returning them to a base camp. If you choose to take the risk and climb alone then you also choose to accept the potential consequences - even is that is death. A more basic analogy is speeding. If a driver chooses to exceed the speed limit, they are therefore by default accepting the consequences. Including but not limited to fines, points, loss of licence, etc. They are also therefore, by choosing to speed, accepting that if they hit someone doing 60 in a 30 zone and that person dies of injuries related to the excess speed, then they are responsible for that persons death. Although it must be said that you can kill someone hitting them at 5 miles an hour if they hit their head or break a rib and puncture a lung, this is just an illustration.
So by the same logic, if you CHOOSE to climb Everest poorly planned, on your own without sufficient supplies, you are choosing to accept the consequences of your actions. OFC accidents happen, but this is why you plan - you arrange to go in a group and you arrange for the group to take responsibility for injured party members. It's not a day out in picturesque countryside - it is a dangerous activity and should be treated with the appropriate respect.
Last edited by AMLightfoot; 29th May 2012 at 12:13 PM.
29th May 2012, 12:33 PM #7
TBF though, many of those who die ARE in a group and DO start off with the correct level of supplies etc - they are just worse affected by the cold/lack of oxygen/ whatever. There is certainly an argument about not stopping as your own supplies could be fatally depleted if there are two of you using them, and then two people might die. I did read a book I think where the climber did explain that you just dont have the energy or the ability to drag someone down the mountain. I think his group left several people before they were actually dead as there was nothing they could do.
I couldn't in all honesty 'enjoy' any success I had in climbing a mountain like that if it meant that someone I passed, who might have lived, had died because I did not stop.
It is a bit harsh to say they are choosing to accept the consquences - any more than those of us who drive cars, fly, or eat a cream bun are choosing to die because we know the risks. Of course there are risks, but you mitigate them as far as you can. People make mistakes and it would be dreadful to think that a fellow human wouldnt stop because it is their own fault...
Last edited by witch; 29th May 2012 at 12:36 PM.
29th May 2012, 01:51 PM #8
@witch, @AMLightfoot, that being said, the scenario assumes you find someone dieing, decide to help, then continue up the mountain.
Unless you find someone at the very summit dieing, you'll always have enough resources to get yourself/your team down with plenty to spare for the new person, because you still have more than 50% of your supplies left. Say you're halfway up everest, you've only used 25% of your supplies (theoretically), and would have ample reserves to begin your descent immediately, 'carrying' the extra person. If that person used zero resources, you'd get to the bottom with 50% left, granted, impossible, but I doubt that one person would use as much as your entire party. You'd likely only encounter problems giving some resources to a rescued climber after 75% of the way up, but still reasonable amount spare for just one extra person.
But even my argument has holes. What if you come accross a party of 6, all near-death and depleted resources? What then?
29th May 2012, 01:51 PM #9
29th May 2012, 02:20 PM #10
I think @witch has a point - climbing Everest and K2 are endurance events, they are not 'simple' climbs. Given enough time and blister plasters even I could probably manage to wander up Mount Snowdon, but Everest is a totally different ballgame and it ravages you. That being said, if you have enough energy and drive to walk on past a dying person clearly you are not THAT ravaged. You still have to come down again too. I don't think it is right to leave people to die, but I'd have to question whether or not they should be there in the first place. Perhaps some of the blame should lie with companies that organise and promote climbs for people rich enough to pay rather than for people who are fit enough.
You'll never answer this question because you will always hit the brick wall of 'Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do?'. You will never stop people from capitalizing on extreme sports. Two words: Darwin Award.
29th May 2012, 03:15 PM #11
I've never climbed Everest but I have climbed smaller mountains such as Mont Blanc and the Grand Paridso . The problem as I see it with Everest is that most amateurs (myself included) who get to this height just don't have the energy or strength to actually do anything other than put one foot in front of the other let alone pick someone up and carry them down.
It's tragic and non professional climbers are being badly led but some just refuse to listen when they are advised to turn back and the consequences are terrible.
I've been with parties up Kilimanjaro on a number of occasions and had to literally drag individuals with altitude sickness off the mountain because they refused to stop and go back, had our group not done so there would certainly have been more deaths.
I would like to think I would stop and help someone down but at that height (the death zone) I doubt I would be fit enough to do so.
A terrible waste of life.
29th May 2012, 09:31 PM #12
I think that @kili has just hit the nail on the head
Originally Posted by kili
29th May 2012, 11:53 PM #13
Read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Honest, pretty accurate, thought-provoking, informative for those of us not lucky enough to have climbed in the Himalayas.
30th May 2012, 12:08 AM #14
That level of climbing is something special and there are similar discussions on other fields. Outdoor (sea) swimming is another area where you have to consider yourself before anyone else. The loss of one life is tragic but the loss of two due to attempts to rescue someone is avoidable ... heartbreaking, but avoidable.
30th May 2012, 12:34 AM #15
I dragged myself off Mt. Kenya with altitude sickness as a teen.. bitterly, bitterly disappointed but you have to be seriously ignorant/mad to risk pulmonary edema etc. Have also had the dying broken person on a titchy english mountain experience and have been too close to that myself elsewhere. Not that I'm remotely up to it, but I wouldn't go anywhere near Everest because of the company I'd be in.
Originally Posted by kili
I take it some of you read the other angle?:Climber describes rescue near summit of Everest
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