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Moral climbdown

Helping someone in trouble has absolute priority over all other goals -- more so in the mountains. Any true climber worth his climbing boots would consider saving a life.

india Updated: May 26, 2006 00:12 IST

Climbing enthusiasts will join Mt Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary in condemning climbers who left a British mountaineer to die during their own attempts on the world’s tallest peak. In an act of appalling indifference, more than 40 climbers reportedly filed past David Sharp as he lay dying without oxygen on the way down from the summit during a solo climb last week. Sir Edmund has every right to be outraged at the way “the whole attitude towards climbing Mt Everest has become horrifying” with people just wanting to get to the top.

Helping someone in trouble has absolute priority over all other goals -- more so in the mountains. Any true climber worth his climbing boots would consider saving a life far more valuable than the hardest of ascents. When asked about his motivation to scale Mount Everest, British alpinist George Mallory famously said: “Because it’s there!” Today, the wannabe and rich climbers who crowd the Everest base camp seem to have added ‘at any cost’ to that. What draws these climbers is the glamour attached to ‘conquering’ the world’s most famous peak. Nor do these climbers face what Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay did 53 years ago.

The climb is now a very different place, with aluminium ladders and yards of fixed ropes that help new climbers negotiate. They certainly cannot relive that historic climb half a century removed in time. Going by the events of last week, they don’t deserve to either.