Sunday, May 25, 2008
[Content Disclosure: 0% Poker Content; 0% Fun, Wit, Humor etc.; 67% Overall Crankiness; 22% Reflections on a Stupid Species]
I am going to guess that some of you have read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and more of you have seen the several climbing specials from Mt. Everest on PBS. I have not read the book, which by the way, is fully titled: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. I do watch the Discovery Channel programs and I am nearly entranced not by the mountain, nor the individuals but by the huge number of people who find Mr. Krakauer and others who climb Mt. Everest to be adventurers or heroes. The particular "the" Mt. Everest Disaster that Kraukauer writes of took place in 1996. In that year, 98 individuals summitted and 15 died. But each and every year the same story plays out. Each and every summer hundreds of adventurers travel to Sagarmatha (Nepalese) and spend roughly $65,000 for the privilege of killing themselves and leaving mounds of equipment and garbage on the mountain.
Notice I said "killing themselves" not dying because these people are, in fact, committing suicide. Where these people give away their lives is in an area above 8,000 meters; an area known as "The Death Zone", let me repeat: "The Death Zone". There have been 210 verified deaths on the mountain, where conditions are so difficult that most corpses have been left where they fell; some are visible from standard climbing routes. So on the way up, you get to see others who have died attempting to go where you are going. Frost bite has claimed limbs, digits and assorted body parts of over 1,000 climbers on Everest. At least three are permanently snow blind, which means blind from exposing your eyes to the unfiltered sunlight at the top of the mountain.
What troubles me is not that fools risk their lives, to each his or her own and certainly your life is yours to do with as you will. But the fascination of others, particularly PBS and the Discovery Channel seems horribly misplaced. You probably vaguely remember the guide who stayed on the mountain with his client on Chomolungma (Tibetan) and was able to get a cell phone call patched through to his wife back in England to say goodbye. Why is this sad? Why are we affected by this in any sort of sorrowful way? He chose to die. He chose to let his client keep climbing, even after warning him to turn around. Somehow this man is a hero?
He was, they all are, fools. Unworthy of respect or honor of any kind. They decided that climbing a mountain where one in eleven climbers die, was....what exactly? They chose to risk their lives for..... what?