What does it tell us when a man is left to die by climbers hell-bent on conquering Everest? That the climb is so hard, the air so thin, that humans can’t be expected to take on the burden of looking after others? Or that modern, self-centred humans are capable of leaving their own to die when they’ve forked out good money for an “experience”?

The conduct of these adventure tourists, who paid six-figure sums to be photographed in their Nautica threads next to frostbitten Sherpas on the top of a lump of rock, was utterly disgraceful. Sir Edmund Hillary would have stopped and helped, but that’s the difference between a unique pioneer and a Conde Nast coupon collector.

They say it was too late. “Expedition manager” Russell Bryce, despite being down at base camp, apparently pronounced poor David Sharp to be “effectively dead.” But this defeats common sense. How could he make that decision when he wasn’t even there? And how could Mark Inglis and his brave pals know for sure either? They couldn’t, and yet they left a man to die while they cavorted and posed on the summit.

Someone was dying. Groups of people walked on past, not to save their own lives but to “achieve a goal” and be able to brag to their friends about how they beat a mountain. Calculations took place pitting the merits of an attempted rescue versus a successful climb, and the climb won out. For about 40 like-minded people, apparently.

I hope this is the last time we anoint as some sort of hero a lunatic who wants to prove themselves by climbing a mountain or dragging themselves across the polar ice cap naked. Something’s not right when you decide that the best thing you can blow your energy, money and sometimes life on is waving from a rock or smiling as your frostbitten toes are cut off on video.

Maybe this is the lunatic fringe of our goal-setting, self-actualising, achievement-oriented society. Individuals setting goals, striving ruthlessly to achieve them, and slowly freezing to death by the wayside if they’re not up to the challenge.

If the next generation needs values, then let’s stop looking up to buccaneering idiots with more money and time than sense, and tell our kids that stopping to help someone in trouble is more heroic than posing on a mountain.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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