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Topic - Good news from Everest

ablackett - on 02 Jun 2012
No judgement on everyone else who has climbed everest from me - I wasn't there. Sounds to me like David O'Brien did the right thing up there. Well done to him.

From the Times today.

As the short summiting season on Mount Everest draws to a close, the man who deserves the highest praise is one who did not make it to the roof of the world. Just a few hundred feet short of the top, the British mountaineer David O’Brien encountered a Polish climber lying in the snow. Abandoned by his colleagues, the Pole was not far off becoming the eleventh person to die on Everest this year.
Mr O’Brien and his team faced a choice: continue with their own attempt on the summit, tantalisingly close, or abandon it and save another man’s life. Mr O’Brien did the right thing, guiding the stricken man down to safety. He survived, recovered, and apparently later failed to recognise and thus thank his rescuer, an omission this newspaper is happy to correct. Mr O’Brien is a credit to climbers everywhere.
Some people on Everest, however, are anything but. Very high altitude degrades mental and physical ability. Unfortunately, the thin air seems also to suffocate the moral capacity of some among the dangerously large numbers queueing impatiently for their crack at the summit. To climb past a frozen corpse, long beyond help, is merely macabre. To climb past a fellow human being whom you could prevent becoming a corpse is immoral.
Having paid a small fortune to be there, accustomed to getting their own way, heedless of the risk to themselves and their sherpa guides, some would-be summiteers leave their conscience back at Base Camp like so much unnecessary kit. These people should realise that there is no honour in an achievement, however glamorous, secured by climbing over — literally, in some cases — the bodies of the dying.
Everest will still be there next year.

Blog post on the same subject -

More from The Times today.
ore than 8,000 metres up, close to Everest’s South Col, dawn was just breaking when David O’Brien spotted what at first he thought was a rock lying in the snow.
“As I got closer I could see the yellow of a down suit — it was a climber lying still on his side,” the British mountaineer said. “His oxygen mask was off and his nostrils were white, frostbitten. I asked him his name and what group he was with but only got a slurred, unrecognisable response.”

Mr O’Brien and his team spent the next few hours on May 20 trying to save the man, a Polish climber who had been abandoned by his team but who survived largely because of Mr O’Brien’s help, by dragging him down the mountain.

But this year, the busiest in the 59 years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first conquered the world’s tallest peak, ten other climbers were not so fortunate. Exhausted and dazed by the high altitude and lack of oxygen, they died on its slopes, some stumbling down crevasses, some suffering from strokes, others left to freeze as fellow climbers stepped past them.

But he has little sympathy for those who ignore the warnings then get into difficulty. “The mountain didn’t kill these people, they killed themselves,” Mr Jenkins said. “In many cases, the sherpas told the client, ‘You are moving too slowly, you are going to die’ and the client refused — and they died. They viewed the summit as more important than their own life.”
For Zimba Zangbu, the sherpa president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association who has climbed Everest four times, the change in the Everest climbing scene began in the 1990s. “Expeditions became very commercial and they started issuing a lot of permits,” he said, adding that the Nepalese Government now charged $10,000 in royalty per person.
“More expeditions means more royalty and more revenue for the Government. Because expeditions have become so commercial, there is much less stress on training. Poorly trained climbers without enough exposure to the climate are going up who have no idea about the need to acclimatise to the oxygen levels and hardships.”

Mr Zangbu said that the average total amount paid by climbers to scale Everest was about $70,000 per person plus tips — including the cost of permits, guides, sherpas, equipment and food — although some would pay up to $110,000 if they wanted to be taken up by a personal western guide. With about 446 foreigners trying to climb the mountain this season, his estimate suggests that more than $31 million was spent in total, with nearly $5 million going directly to the Government.

“It’s a very lucrative business,” Mr Jenkins said. “But more people means more deaths, more pollution and more mess.”

The Everest industry is not just limited to dealing with living climbers. Shriya Shah-Klorfine, a 33-year-old Canadian woman, was climbing with Utmost Adventure Trekking, which charged $36,270 for a place on its 69-day Everest expedition this year, when she died on May 19 as she descended from the summit, near a spot known as the Balcony. Her body was brought down last week by two teams of sherpas in an elaborate operation that involved the use of a helicopter — and which apparently cost $25,000, paid for by her insurer and her family.
Ganesh Thakuri, the expedition manager, said: “The first team took it down from the South Col about 600 metres. Then I sent another team up and they managed to get it down a bit farther to a place where we could get the helicopter in.”

He continued: “There are still a few bodies up there — a German climber and a Chinese who died on the same day. They are planning to get them down but they will have to wait until next season now as there is no opportunity to climb any more.”

Despite the horror stories, most of those interviewed by The Times this week insisted that there was still a sense of chivalry on the upper slopes of Everest — at least among those climbers with the experience and skills to assist others in difficulty. “The brotherhood of the rope does still exist,” Mr Jenkins said. “But people have to be in a certain state to be rescued. If somebody is immobile then it may simply not be possible to carry them down.”

But people like Mr O’Brien, who abandoned his summit attempt to help someone else, cannot be sure of any recognition — not even from the person whose life has been saved. “The following day I met him on the fixed ropes going down to Camp Three, and then again at base camp. He could only remember parts of what had happened,” he said.
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