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Would you walk past?
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Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Would you walk past? on 01/19/2007 12:21:12 MST Print View


No embarassment here. I think we agree on just about everything.

I think we got off track when I took your statement as flippant. Obviously you are comfortable with your finite existence on the planet....or maybe not, but it is evident you have thought a lot about it.

Even though you have not mentioned anything about the Sherpa people and their history/beliefs with the mountain (except where it intersects with Western culture) I believe you probably know about that too.

I do challenge those that climb to the top as to why they do it. For me, I am not comfortable with dying until my 2 children are old enough to fend for themselves. So, the death outcome is the first thing I would not accept.

I also layer on top if you do go, what do you do to insure that your activity does not end with just spending thousands of dollars and 6 weeks of time involved. Did you leave a mark on this pristine location that will never go away. Is there a huge trash pile...or crap pit...or dead bodies building up that will never find there way off? What a glorious site I am sure. Something tells me that some Sherpa's who may miss out on the money generated by this business enterprise would in fact prefer to have The Mother Goddess of the Earth free of the garbage and bodies of wealthy climbers too.

David Plantenga
(davidplantenga) - F
WoW ! on 01/21/2007 03:06:30 MST Print View

This "Would you walk past?" thread is maybe the most exciting web thread I've ever read.
Thank you all who contributed.

James Watts
(james481) - F

Locale: Sandia Mountains
Why We Go on 01/25/2007 15:57:39 MST Print View

One or two people, through the course of this thread, have posed the question of why, with so much at stake, do people choose to subject themselves to mountains so frought with peril. Why do we subject ourselves to bitter cold, biting winds, sheer cliff faces, and the possibility of a lonely, cold and painful death?

As an "amateur" mountaineer who has never been much above fourteen thousand feet, and only visted the likes of K2 and Nanga Parbat in my mind's eye, I'm certainly no authority on the matter, but I'll try to answer to the best of my ability, based on my experience and the experiences of the world's great mountaineers that I have only met in my imagination.

The question may seem pretty simple, but the answer is as complex as the personalities of the people who engage in this most dangerous of hobbies. Distilled to the most basic answer, we go because those places are there. For the same reason that we send men hurtling through space, wrapped in little more than a foil can, to leave their footsteps in the eternal dust of the moon's surface. The same reason that men spend months isolated on the barren tundra of the polar ice caps, all so they can set foot on a spot that can only be seen on a compass. The desire to explore and experience new frontiers is an inseperable part of our human nature.

This answer alone is admittedly pretty unsatisfactory. After all, if this is part of human nature, why don't we all engage in these sorts of dangerous activities? Where is the exploration in standing on a summit that hundreds of others have already conquered? To ponder these questions, we enter into the winding maze of the human psyche. Unsurprisingly, this is where the answers get complex.

In my (rather limited) view, there are esentially two goals that all mountaineers aspire to achieve to some extent. The first is to conquer nature. To reach the summit through the worst terrain, weather, and hardship that nature can procure, and to come out the other side alive. Then there is the more nebulous, personal goal of conquering one's self. The confidence and wisdom that comes from persevering to complete a task that seems impossible. I would think that most mountaineers wish to achieve a combination of these two goals.

Although conquering nature is (arguably) a noble goal, and itself a strong motivater in the human condition, it's also a fairly simple goal. To know that nature tried her best to defeat you, but failed. Men have been seeking this goal since the beginning of time.

The conquering of one's self, in contrast, means something different to everyone, so answering for anyone other than myself is difficult or impossible. Personally, standing on the summit of a mountain, looking down to all that lays below, reminds me of the triviality of our daily lives. Like staring into an ant farm watching the insects scurry about, I feel as though I am larger than the daily irritations that consume my generally mundane existance, and how little those brief but inevitable periods of anger and sorrow really mean in the larger context of my life.

I am reminded that there are grander things in this world than my trivial existance. The mountain, and the journey it represents, both reaching the summit and my personal journey through life, is frought with danger and hardship. At the end of that journey, though, lies an experience which transcends the physical and spiritual existance we all share. We all climb our own mountains.

(RavenUL) - F
Re: Why We Go on 01/25/2007 16:00:56 MST Print View


Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Re: Why We Go on 01/25/2007 16:28:42 MST Print View

Very well said.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Why We Go on 01/26/2007 12:05:01 MST Print View

Bravo! Very well said! Though speaking for myself, I travel in the mountains not so much to conquer them as much as to engage nature in a manner in which my safety depends on my judgement and subsequent action.

For me, the notion of "conquering," with its implication of victory over, does not adequately acknowledge the fact that successfully meeting a goal in any hazardous environment is at least in part of matter of luck. If effort and skill meet favorable conditions, we bask in success. If effort and skill meet extreme conditions, we use judgement to decide whether to go forward. If we go and succeed, in our minds eye we are 'tenacious.' Others may see us as 'courageous' or 'stupid'. Going forward into the blizzard can also lead to our untimely demise if all the little contingencies stack up against us.

I go partly for the opporunity to make those decisions and manage my response to those contingencies. Most of the time, I operate well within a comfortable margin of safety ("live to wimp again")- and reasonably able to handle the "stuff happens" scenarios. But the charge comes from judging the factors that provide the margin.

It's almost cliche, but the 'situational awareness' that defines safety also super-charges my sensitivity to beauty. Ultimately - I go to fully, deeply notice the play of light on the hills and wind in the grass. When I successfully 'plug-in' there is a spiritual connection that fuels happiness for months or even years. I have a memory of a cold wet day on a river in Maine, kneeling on the shore of a rapid enraptured by the way tall grass nodded when hit by rain drops. 20 years later and I can go right back. That's the real 'why' for me. I've never found anything that expresses it better than the "navajo prayer" -

With Beauty before me, there may I walk.
With Beauty behind me,there may I walk.
With Beauty above me, there may I walk.
With Beauty below me, there may I walk.
With Beauty all around me, there may I walk.
In Beauty it is finished.

As far as the ethics of the specific situation on Everest, I think it wise not to judge. The first thing that emegency response folks learn to do is assess the situation before attempting the rescue. While the scenario presents a picture that seems heartless and unethical at face value, it is one that is based on written accounts that are at best incomplete, about an environment that is difficult to imagine if you haven't been there (I have not). If rescue was possible and climbers went past because they cared only about their $60K investment, may they roast for eternity. It sounds more likely that successful rescue was all but impossible and the attempt very dangerous, and they exercised judgement in a difficult situation.

Stephen Boyd

Locale: Minnesowtah
Fine line? on 01/28/2007 10:05:08 MST Print View

I've been contemplating a response....or whether to respond since I read the first post several days ago.

First the disclaimer. I'm a hiker and I do it because I enjoy being in the woods, I enjoy spending time with my wife (we hike together) and I enjoy the satisfaction I gain by physically pushing my body and my mind. My hiking style definately is not the picture of "living on the edge". I do it because I enjoy the act and the physical and mental benefit I receive from it....period.

Now to answer the questions....NO, I absolutely could not and would not walk by. The fine line for me in the described situation is dead vs. dying. Even knowing that the person was going to die I would feel compelled to stay until they had passed. Even though they knew the potential risks and consequences of their climb they don't deserve to die alone.


Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
Re: re:Would you walk past? on 01/28/2007 20:27:27 MST Print View

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:12-13

I understand the discussion of risk and responsibility, but where the rubber meets the road, I have no doubts. When we meet on the trail, I survive or die with you. I have no choice, for it is written. So, please be careful out there.

Robert Miller
(procab) - F
Re: Would you walk past? on 01/29/2007 00:21:38 MST Print View

5/14/06 David Sharp attempts and collapses.
5/15/06 David Sharp is lucid enough to talk when the film crew arrives.

Sir Edmund Hillary disagreed with the decision not to help a fellow climber.

What followed 10 days later was a miracle or perhaps a reminder from our creator.

5/25/06 Lincoln Hall was left for dead in the death zone.
5/26/06 Lincoln Hall is found alive, knows his name and believes he is on a boat ride. Days later he would walk off the mountain.

Dan Mazur and his two team members failed in their bid to summit Everest. Their success was in a more important area.

Now, knowing this second story, would you walk past?

Edited by procab on 01/29/2007 00:42:00 MST.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Would you walk past? on 01/29/2007 10:30:46 MST Print View

The Everest News story is compelling. I do not personally buy into the notion that one must sacrifice ones life to aid another who has little or no chance of survival (I'd call it suicide - which has its own set of ethical questions).

However, I absolutely do agree that we are called on to give aid whenever possible. Where the boundary between the possible and suicidal lies is (in my opinion) extremely difficult to second guess - but the story does calls into doubt whether passersby were at that point. If that's the case, I can only hope that there is some validity in the notion of karmic justice.

The story about David Mazur's party points to what I would expect of myself and others. Doing what can be done - short of I've always harbored a secret hope that the beauty of the mountains is in some way enriches the soul. I reckon maybe not everybody's...

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Would You Walk Past? on 01/29/2007 22:00:21 MST Print View

The next time I run into this situation, I think I will save the life of every Super Concientious Uber Self Sacrificing person who comes after me by packing snow onto the face of the incapacitated climber to make sure he looks utterly, 100% dead. I will take the guilt, and achieve a goal within reach, rather than die trying to reach an impossible star.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Would You Walk Past? on 02/02/2007 00:02:57 MST Print View

The Hillary interview was really insightful. I suppose being from and educated in a different era he has a definite perspective. As do some of the great personalities on this board. I am sure the feelings are geniune if not a little verbose given the nature of the topic. It is very powerful....and I still hold that no matter how well you think you know yourself or the situation now, most would fall to the average of really deciding if their was a good chance they would die trying...they would hedge not to.

The whole deciding not to waste ones $45,000 investment on a death mission, or using a cell phone really get's under Hillary's skin. (Can't say I totally blame him) He cannot relate to the reality at all. The whole process has probably become pretty disgusting to him and I am sure he already hates Windows Vista.

I am starting to believe the Nepalese government needs some marketing 101 help. A traffic jam means only that the price is too low. The amputee gentleman figured that out already. Less quantity and higher margins generates the same income...while increasing safety. Pretty soon you will be able to choose from climbing the "roof of the world" or going into a space orbit...if you have the cash. And don't worry, it is 100% safe and sterilized for ya.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:would you walk past,Dan Mazur who? on 02/02/2007 00:41:22 MST Print View

Sir Edmund Hillary..there is a name I know, he and Norgay were the first to summit Everest.
'Dan Mazur'; don't recognize that one.. maybe because he got distracted and didn't summit.
100 years from now the difference in recognizion will be the same. That's a cold reality. Take care of your family, your success, and your legacy first. You can best help others from a position of strength.

If I could help without sacrificing my own strategic goals, or life, I would.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
Re: re:would you walk past,Dan Mazur who? on 02/03/2007 18:47:50 MST Print View

Brett, after reading your other posts on this thread, I think that we’re in about the same place, though this one leaves me with questions. I think that you've put this right where it belongs, which is in the context of ethics.

- What does name recognition have with doing what is right (and yes I am willing to claim that there is a right)?

- What legacy would you be taking care of in this situation?

- How do you define success in this situation?

- What are your strategic goals and why are they relevant?

What's fascinating to me about this thread is that it's really all about ethics - almost to the point of being an archetypal story. The question of whether there is a separate set of "rules" at play in high-risk environments in general is interesting - they tend to generate our tales of the heroic, and these often involve the length to which we will go to help others. My own opinion is that there is no such "higher moral imperative" at play - rather there are situations with consequences that are much starker and more complicated than average.

You're right - we don't know for sure what we would do until we are there. However - the way we think things through ahead of time is essentially practice. I prefer to reherse being Dan Mazur...hopefully I'd feel better telling my kids that story than how I stepped over a dying guy on the way to the summit. It's a sad but true fact of human existance that we seem capable of sacrificing life for ambition. The only silver lining in that cloud is that when the story comes out, the antagonists are usually harshly judged as ugly.

I reckon I am willing to judge the actions of others - against a few standards. The first is did they do wrong? I would judge allowing someone to die when it is in your power to provide aid to be wrong. It is not perfectly clear that this is what occurred, but it is apparent that some very experienced climbers feel that it is.

Edited by jackfl on 02/03/2007 19:20:52 MST.

Stephen Boyd

Locale: Minnesowtah
Re: Would You Walk Past? on 02/04/2007 06:09:22 MST Print View


If you are serious....

I just want to say THANK YOU for cementing my view of a large percentage of U.S. Society today. In my opinion our society is full to the brim with self-serving dinks who's only goal is to win, win, win at any cost. Let the door slam shut on the guy behind me so I can get my order in at Starbucks....rather than doing the polite thing and hold it open. Hold up traffic because I'm having an important cell-phone conversation with god-only-knows-who at 6:30 in the morning on the way to work.

Sympathy and compassion are for the most part gone in our society and have been replaced by "Second place = first loser!"

If you were not serious....then....well....never mind!


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Would you walk past? on 02/04/2007 15:25:09 MST Print View

You know me so well. The problem is, even with my ruthless attitude, I'm not vicious enough to get into politics.

Kirk Beiser
(kab21) - F

Locale: Pic: Gun Lake, BWCA
Re: Would you walk past? on 02/04/2007 16:54:32 MST Print View

Please remember that when rescuing someone it is very important that you should not increase the number of people that need to be rescued and/or dead.

I think it is terribly unfortunate that David Sharp did not survive his climb of Everest. But I can't help think that more climbers/sherpas might have died trying to rescue him. He was a very large man (description on the show), very high on Everest.

The rescue of Lincoln Hall by Dan Mazur's party and a large number of sherpas was a miracle. But I can't help wonder what popular opinion would have been if Dan Mazur or several of the Sherpa's had died during the rescue attempt. My guess is that the team leader that coordinated the rescue would have been blamed for attempting a suicide rescue mission.

But Lincoln Hall did survive, David Sharp did not, Dan Mazur is a hero and those that walked past are ridiculed while we Monday Morning Quarterback from the safety of our homes.

I will always look out for my own safety, but I will help those in need without compromising my own safety. I would not care if I missed out on a goal of mine if I was able to save a life. And Everest is not one of my goals...


Stephen Boyd

Locale: Minnesowtah
Re: Would you walk past? on 02/05/2007 15:55:47 MST Print View


I wasn't saying you were one of "those people".

I was meerly making the generalization that there are plenty of folks out there as I described.

If I knew for a fact that you were a self-serving dink....I would call you a self-serving dink....I'm not shy.:-)


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Would you walk past? on 02/06/2007 18:35:58 MST Print View

Not only am I a self-serving dink, I teach my children to be the same way. I have a running philosophical battle with that Do-Gooder, Bleading Heart, PJ, as a previous post of mine demonstrates: "PJ, there you go again. First you offer to help out a young man with a BPL membership, then you have the audacity to actually praise cottage industries that provide generous help to their customers. You are making me look bad in front of my children, and, oh yeah, the wifie, too. I teach my little ankle nippers to look out for the greatest number, which is Number One. Both your actions and your pronouncements are UNDERMINING THE EDUCATION OF MY CHILDREN!"

abdon gonzalez
( - F

Locale: Misawa, Japan
A few factoids on 02/07/2007 11:22:50 MST Print View

Everest is not the deadliest mountain by a long shot; fatality-wise it is number ten on the list of fourteen 8,000+ mountains. Recent numbers put the dead tool at around 2% (since 2000; the overall fatality rate since the beginning is around 9%). Compare that to Annapurna (8,091 m) with an overall fatality rate of 41% (130 climbers have summited, 53 have died) and Everest begins to look a lot easier.

I'm not a mountaineer, I'm a hiker. The closest I have been to Everest is to base camp I on the Tibetan side. Someday I would like to get back there and hike to base camp IV at around 7,000 meters. I believe that the experience would let me lose myself in the mountain, without losing my soul in what has become a repulsive business. There is so much selfish ambition, greed from climbers and guides alike, thefts, bad guides, filth, and the already mentioned lack of care for human life, that the only way I can see of having an spiritual experience at the summit would be from hallucinations due to lack of oxygen.

Just to give an idea of how bad it has gotten, way up on the mountain people would go as far as to sell you bad oxygen bottles...